ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York lawmakers agreed to pass the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, and now dare other states and Washington to follow.
“This is a scourge on society,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday night, six days after making gun control a centerpiece of his progressive agenda in his State of the State address. The bipartisan effort was fueled by the Newton tragedy that took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators. “At what point do you say, ‘No more innocent loss of life.’”
Sen. Jeffrey Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate, said it is landmark legislation. “This is not about taking anyone’s rights away,” said Klein, a Bronx Democrat. “It’s about a safe society … today we are setting the mark for the rest of the county to do what’s right.”
The measure, which calls for a tougher assault weapons ban and restrictions on ammunition and the sale of guns, passed the Senate 43-18 on the strength of support from Democrats, many of whom previously sponsored bills that were once blocked by Republicans. The Democrat-led Assembly gaveled out before midnight and planned to take the issue up at 10 a.m. Tuesday. It is expected to pass easily.
The governor confirmed the proposal, previously worked out in closed session, also would mandate a police registry of assault weapons, grandfathering in assault weapons already in private hands.
It would create a more powerful tool to require the reporting of mentally ill people who say they intend to use a gun illegally and would address the unsafe storage of guns, the governor confirmed.
It was agreed upon exactly a month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.
“It is well-balanced, it protects the Second Amendment,” said Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Long Island. “And there is no confiscation of weapons, which was at one time being considered.
“This is going to go after those who are bringing illegal guns into the state, who are slaughtering people in New York City,” Skelos said. “This is going to put people in jail and keep people in jail who shouldn’t be out on the street in the first place.”
Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers noted most bills had been pushed by Democrats in past years, but bottled up by Republicans.
“The Senate Democrats were proud to provide the votes to make this crucial package possible,” said Stewart-Cousins, leader of the traditional Democratic conference. “The fact is, the bills passed today should have been enacted a long time ago.”
Cuomo said he wanted quick action to avoid a run on assault weapons and ammunition as he tries to address what he estimates is about 1 million assault weapons in New York state.
Republican Sen. Greg Ball called that political opportunism in a rare criticism of the popular and powerful governor seen by his supporters as a possible candidate for president in 2016.
“We haven’t saved any lives tonight, except one: the political life of a governor who wants to be president,” said Ball who represents part of the Hudson Valley. “We have taken an entire category of firearms that are currently legal that are in the homes of law-abiding, tax paying citizens. … We are now turning those law-abiding citizens into criminals.”
Under current state law, assault weapons are defined by having two “military rifle” features spelled out in the law. The proposal would reduce that to one feature and include the popular pistol grip.