New York legislature approves sweeping new gun legislation

Updated
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to members of the media about recovering efforts after Hurricane Sandy.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to members of the media about recovering efforts after Hurricane Sandy.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

UPDATE (4:23 p.m.): Bloomberg News is reporting that the State Assembly has passed the gun control legislation. It now awaits the governor’s signature.

On Monday night, the New York State Senate approved what one state senator has described as “the toughest gun control package in the nation.”

The legislation, which is expected to be passed in the state assembly on Tuesday, broaden’s New York’s prohibition against assault rifles and empowers law enforcement to confiscate the firearms of the mentally ill if their therapists suspect they’re at risk of becoming violent.

The newly expanded assault weapons ban would also prohibit “semiautomatic pistols and rifles with detachable magazines and one military-style feature, as well as semiautomatic shotguns with one military-style feature,” according to The New York TimesState residents who already own such weapons are required to register them.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, became one of the nation’s most outspoken advocates of stricter gun control laws in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a moderate conservative with no current party affiliation, has been a major voice on behalf of gun control for years. As the co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg has often served as the public face of stricter gun regulations.

In order to pass New York’s landmark new law, Cuomo had to lean on the Republican-controlled Senate, which faced considerable pressure in the opposite direction from the conservative gun lobby.

However, in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting, political momentum has clearly been on the side of gun control: Conservative Democrats such as Virginia’s Senator Mark Warner, Philadelphia’s Senator Bob Casey, and Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper have reversed their earlier positions and joined the chorus for tighter gun laws. Even a handful of Republican politicians have expressed a willingness to consider “measures that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,” in the words of Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

It remains to be seen whether other states will pass similarly stringent measures, or if the federal government will step in. Vice President Joe Biden is now leading the charge for a national response to gun violence, and advocates both within and without advocates are planning a national campaign to overwhelm the gun lobby.

UPDATE: From an NRA statement on Tuesday night’s State Senate vote:

The Second Amendment and legislative procedure became the sacrificial lamb in New York as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s quest for headline-grabbing gun control was rammed through the Senate in the dark of night.  Anti-gun former Gov. Eliot Spitzer has described Governor Cuomo as “the dirtiest, nastiest political player out there…,” and that certainly rang true during the wee hours of the morning as they deceptively slipped through their all-out assault on the Second Amendment and the law-abiding citizens in New York. Determined to steal the thunder from an anti-gun White House, Cuomo made passing gun control the first major issue of the 2013 legislative session.  Cuomo seized the opportunity to exploit tragedy and put his own personal politics ahead of sound public policy.  New York, with some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, is on the verge of enacting even more onerous laws on the backs of gun owners.  In fact, according to the Brady Campaign’s national ranking of state gun control laws, New York is the fourth “best” (most restrictive) in the nation BEFORE this legislation is enacted.  Instead of preventing crime and punishing criminals, S.2230 focuses only on law-abiding gun owners and will do nothing to address public safety or crime.

Cuomo utilized a rarely-used executive trick, a “message of necessity” to circumvent the normal legislative procedures that are strictly followed on hundreds of bills each legislative session.  This scheme allowed this bill to be considered for a vote on the floor of each legislative chamber without the normal committee hearings and public input.  Proponents of S.2230 are obviously embarrassed to have any sunlight on this extreme anti-gun legislation and provide time for the public to review and comment on it through the normal legislative process. Such backroom dealing on constitutional rights is outrageous and disgraceful. And such an assault in Albany on Second Amendment rights and democracy is the true assault weapon.

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New York legislature approves sweeping new gun legislation

Updated