New York lawmakers agreed to pass the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, with a package approved overnight in the State Senate.
"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.'"
The New York gun control provisions passed by the Senate late Monday and being considered by the Assembly on Tuesday cover several fronts.
Gov. Here's What's In The Plan:
-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.
-Make the unsafe storage of assault weapons a misdemeanor.
-Mandate a police registry of assault weapons.
-Establish a state registry for all private sales, with a background check done through a licensed dealer for a fee, excluding sales to immediate relatives.
-Require a therapist who believes a mental health patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally to report the threat to a mental health director who would then have to report serious threats to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services. A patient's gun could be taken from him or her.
-Ban the Internet sale of assault weapons.
-Restrict ammunition magazines to seven bullets, from the current national standard of 10. Current owners of higher-capacity magazines would have a year to sell them out of state. An owner caught at home with eight or more bullets in a magazine could face a misdemeanor charge.
-Require that stolen guns be reported within 24 hours. Otherwise, the owner would face a possible misdemeanor.
-Increase sentences for gun crimes including for taking a gun on school property. The "Webster provision" would increase penalties for shooting first responders. Two firefighters were killed when shot by a person who set a fire in the western New York town of Webster last month. The crime would be punishable by life in prison without parole.
-Limit the state records law to protect handgun owners from being identified publicly. The provision would allow a handgun permit holder a means to maintain privacy under the Freedom of Information law.
-Require pistol permit holders or those who will be registered as owners of assault rifles to be recertifies at least every five years to make sure they are still legally able to own the guns.
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. It's about a safe society ... today we are setting the mark for the rest of the county to do what's right."
- Sen. Jeff Klein, Independent Democrat/Senate co- leader
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.
Locally, Republican Senators Patrick Gallivan of Elma, Michael Ranzenhofer of Amherst and George Maziarz of Newfane voted against the Senate measure. Republican Mark Grisanti of Buffalo and Democrat Tim Kennedy were in favor of the measures.
“ While this omnibus legislation begins to address a number of the issues that many law enforcement professionals have long advocated for, I cannot in good conscience vote for a law which contains provisions proven to have no effect on public safety and infringes upon the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens, ”
-- Sen. Patrick Gallivan ( R- Elma)
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Dave Levinthal, The Center for Public Integrity
Assy. Dennis Gabryszak, (D-Cheektowaga)
Harold "Budd" Schroeder, NRA Board Member,
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Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, (R- Amherst)
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, even though one local lawmaker suggested that the vote may be along upstate-downstate lines.
" I don't know that you are going to see a lot of support from the western New York delegation," said Assymblyman Dennis Gabryszak, a Cheektowaga Democrat who tells WBEN he is not likely to support the bill.
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.
"This is going to go after those who are bringing illegal guns into the state, who are slaughtering people in New York City. 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."
"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," Skelos said.
Cuomo said he wanted quick action to avoid a run on assault rifles and ammunition as he tries to address what he estimates is about 1 million assault rifles 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. 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."
.Senate Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous of Broome County voted against the bill and said it was a tough vote for upstate Republicans.
"I have had thousands of emails and calls," Libous said. "I have to respect their wishes." He said many of constituents worry the bill will conflict with the Second Amendment's right to bear arms while others anguish over shootings like at Newtown, Conn., and Columbine, Colo.
The closed-door meetings prompted about a dozen gun workers to travel more than two hours to Albany to protest the legislation they say could cost 300 to 700 jobs in the economically hard-hit Mohawk Valley.
"I have three small kids myself," said Jamie Rudall, a unionized worker who polishes shotgun receivers. "So I know what it means, the tragedy ... we need to look at ways to prevent that, rather than eliminate the rights of law-abiding citizens."
In the gun debate, one concern for New York is its major gun manufacturer upstate.
Remington Arms Co. makes the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle that was used in the Connecticut shootings and again on Christmas Eve when the two firefighters were slain in Webster. The two-century-old Remington factory in Ilion in central New York employs 1,000 workers in a Republican Senate district.
Assemblyman Marc Butler, a Republican who represents the area, decried the closed-door meetings by Senate Republicans and the Democratic majority of the Assembly as "politics at its worst."
The bill would be the first test of the new coalition in control of the Senate, which has long been run by Republicans opposed to gun control measures. The chamber is now in the hands of Republicans and five breakaway Democrats led by Klein, an arrangement expected to result in more progressive legislation.
Former Republican Sen. Michael Balboni said that for legislators from the more conservative upstate region of New York, gun control "has the intensity of the gay marriage issue." In 2011, three of four Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote for same-sex marriage ended up losing their jobs because of their votes.