New York is the first state to strengthen their gun laws in response to the violent shootings at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut and also shooting of first responding firefighters in Webster,NY. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York State signed a more restrictive gun control which was passed by the state legislature in very quick fashion on Tuesday, January 15. Mayor Bloomberg, who was pleased with the law, states that it strengthens NY’s already strict gun regulations and shows a concern about public safety over gun possession.
Gun owner associations such as the NRA have said that the bill will only make it harder on the gun owner and not have any effect on reducing violent acts. This has been their stance throughout the gun control discussions after the recent tragedies and the new law certainly did nothing to appease them.
The new law focuses on a stricter definition of an assault weapon than was previously the case and also the amount of ammunition that a weapon could hold. Many reports have stated that this provision of the law makes a gun such as the Newtown shooter used illegal. Now all assault weapons must be registered and those who owned such weapons prior to the law now need to register their weapons. The legislature did not back down either when it came to the tragic killing of first responders as happened in Webster,NY. Under this legislation, the shooting of first responders would carry a penalty of life in prison without parole.
One of the most commented upon provisions is a duty for a mental health worker to report to the Dept. of Criminal Justice if a patient makes a “credible” threat of using a gun illegally. The discussion in this area rests on breaking down all the safeguards that have been constructed to protect patient confidentiality over the years. The other side is that more recent violent shooters have been known to be persons with mental illness.
Another group that weighed in with concern over the bill is retired police officers. Their concern was that the provision concerning limiting the amount of ammunition allowed would hamper them as trained officers to protect citizens should a problem arise.
There are certainly areas of the law that may need amendment and some that the Federal government should not necessary copy into whatever gun control measure they come up with but many feel it is a good start. A copy of the Associated Press version of the provisions of the New York SAFE Act is below.
The Huffington Post and Associated Press report the provisions of this law to be as follows:
- Further restrict assault weapons to define them by a single feature, such as a pistol grip. Current law requires two features.
- 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.
- Require stores that sell ammunition to register with the state, run background checks on buyers of bullets and keep an electronic database of bullet sales.
- 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. Someone caught 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.
- Increase penalties for shooting first responders, called the “Webster provision.” Two firefighters were killed when shot by a person who set a fire in the westernNew Yorktown 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 recertified at least every five years to make sure they are still legally able to own the guns.
New York Criminal Attorney, Arkady Bukh, Esq.
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