History was made today as the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, signed a bill into law that contains the toughest gun control statutes in the country. Signed just after 5 pm EST, a little over one month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre shooting, the law, called the New York Safe Act, is not only "the first bill," says Cuomo, but the "best bill."
The New York Safe Act redefines what an assault weapon is to incorporate a wider range of guns, and reduces the capacity of magazines from ten to seven bullets. In addition, the law makes background checks mandatory for the purchase of ammunition and guns, in public and private sales, increases penalties for illegal gun use, imposes a one-state check on all firearm purchases, and initiates programs aimed at ending gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods.
Cuomo's enthusiasm for this bill was evident as he announced, "I'm proud to be a New Yorker, becaue New York is doing something, because we are fighting back, because, yes, we've had tragedies, and yes, we've had too many innocent people lose their lives, and yes, it's unfortunate that it took those tragedies to get us to this point, but let's at least learn from what's happened, let's at least be able to say to people, yes, we went through terrible situations, but we saw, we learned, we responded, and we acted, and we are doing something about it. We are not victims."
One of the missions of the law is to ensure that guns will not be available to those diagnosed with mental illnesses. The act bestows judges with the responsibility of determining who might do harm to themselves or others, and then requiring them to receive the outpatient care they need. Any time that a mental health professional decides that a gun owner is a risk to others, it must be reported and the gun extracted from the household by the authorities.
One component of the law is called the "Webster provision," named after the two firefighters attacked on Christmas Eve in Wesbter, N.Y. This installment charges a person who kills a first responder with a life sentence and no possibility of parole.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a prominent advocate of gun control, praised the governor and the New York Legislature, stating that they "have shown that it's possible to act quickly- and in a bipartisan fashion- to enact gun laws that will make our communities safer. The responsible and comprehensive gun reform bills the governor signed into law today will help keep guns away from criminals and others who are already prohibited from purchasing them."
Not everyone is a fan, however, as the National Rifle Association reacted strongly to the law, "Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York 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...While lawmakers cou;d have taken a step toward strengthening mental health reporting and focusing on criminals, they opted for trampling the rights of law-abiding gun owners in New York, and they did it under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night."
In a news conference following the signing, Cuomo attributed the appearance of secrecy and rush in the process, to necessity, "As soon as people found out that I was proposing a specific law that was going to ban the sale of assault weapons, we were afraid that would actually cause a rush on the market of people who wanted to buy assault weapons."
Despite the criticism from the NRA, Cuomo continues to stand by the New York Safe Act, stating, "You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and with reason and with common sense and you can make this safe a safer state."