Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New York Strengthens Its Gun Restrictions

  • January 15, 2013, 4:44 PM
Assocaited Press
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative at the signing of the state’s new weapons law on Tuesday afternoon.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a sweeping new set of gun-control measures Tuesday afternoon, making New York the first state to pass new restrictions on weapons in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

A day before President Barack Obama is set to deliver his own firearms recommendations, Cuomo signed into law New York’s bill shortly after the package passed the Democrat-led Assembly by a vote of 104-43.  It won backing from the state Senate late Monday night by 43-18 margin.

In a news conference at the Capitol, Cuomo said he was proud “not just because New York has the first bill, but because New York has the best bill.”
“I’m proud to be a New Yorker because New York is doing something,” he added, “because we are fighting back.”

The package of more than a dozen new legal provisions broadens the state’s definition of “assault weapons” and limits the size of ammunition magazines while increasing penalties for gun-related crimes and making it easier to revoke gun licenses from people deemed mentally ill.

“This is not some window dressing kind of bill — this is a big deal,” said Richard Aborn, president of New York’s Citizens Crime Commission, an independent nonprofit organization that focuses on criminal justice and public-safety issues.
Aborn said the bill took a “comprehensive approach” to gun violence by including new measures on mental health along with gun restrictions. “We have to think much more broadly,” he said.

The bill passed the Assembly by a wide margin but it had dozens of detractors among the chamber’s Republican conference, many of whom said the new law violates the second amendment of the Bill of Rights.

“This bill tramples on the constitutional rights of our citizens,” said Assemblyman Marc Butler, a Republican from upstate Herkimer County.

Butler was one of several Republican lawmakers who voiced strong disapproval for the bill. He and others worried about the impact of the new law on New York-based gun manufacturer Remington Arms. The law would
render some of Remington’s products illegal, like the AR-15 rifle used in the Newtown school rampage.

Republican lawmakers said the bill, passed just over one month after the mass shooting, was rushed through by Cuomo so that he could make national headlines.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
Proposed legislation highlights the differences between Northeastern Republicans like, from left, Representatives Leonard Lance, Rodney Frelinghuysen and Chris Smith of New Jersey and Peter T. King of New York, and other party members.

“Why are we being bullied into voting on this bill?” asked Assemblyman Steve Katz, a Republican who represents parts of Westchester and Putnam counties. He blamed to legislative rush on the governor’s “misguided, egotistic notion that this will advance his presidential aspirations.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, praised the “sensible new laws.”

“Make no mistake, we still have serious questions to answer when it comes to our culture of violence,” he said. “But we have taken a critical step forward today — a step we owe to the victims of Newtown, Webster and in communities everywhere.”

The National Rifle Association released a statement saying it was outraged by the “draconian” bill that it believes will have no impact on crime.

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature orchestrated a secretive end-run around the legislative and democratic process and passed sweeping anti-gun measures with no committee hearings and no public input,” the NRA statement read.

Seen by political pundits as a potential presidential contender,  Cuomo has lept into the national debate over gun control, responding to the school shooting in neighboring Connecticut and the deaths of two firefighters who authorities said were lured to a burning house near Rochester, N.Y., and fatally shot on Christmas Eve. The gunmen in both incidents took their own lives, authorities said.

Juliet Leftwich, legal director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, called New York’s new laws “the most comprehensive approach to regulating firearms and ammunition of any state in the country.”

Meanwhile, New York state’s public pension fund said Tuesday that it will freeze investments in publicly traded firearm manufacturers.

“After the terrible events in Newtown, it is clear that the national movement toward greater regulation of firearms manufacturers will impose significant reputational, regulatory and statutory hurdles that may affect shareholder value,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the New York State Common Retirement Fund.

– Debbie Cai contributed to this report.
Related: New York is First State to Pass Gun Control Measures After Newtown

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