New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the New York Secure
Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act at the Capitol in
Albany. REUTERS/Hans Pennink
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law one of
the nation's toughest gun-control measures and the first to be
enacted since the mass shooting last month at an elementary
school in neighbouring Connecticut.
The bill passed the Democratic-led Assembly on Tuesday
afternoon (local time), a day after sprinting through the
Republican-majority Senate. State lawmakers have been in
session for just a matter of days.
New York's legislation comes just a day before President
Barack Obama is expected to propose a national assault
weapons ban and improved background checks as part of a
sweeping package of initiatives to curb gun violence in the
wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Twenty 6- and 7-year-old schoolchildren and six educators
were killed in the December 14 attack, when a man burst into
their school in Newtown, about 112km northeast of New York
City, and opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon.
The Sandy Hook shooting plunged the nation into grief and
reignited the gun-control debate.
Cuomo acted swiftly following that attack and another 10 days
later in Webster, New York, a suburb of Rochester, that
claimed the lives of two volunteer firefighters. The new law
mandates a life sentence without parole for anyone who
murders a first responder, the so-called "Webster Provision."
With some provisions due to take effect immediately, the
legislation expands the state's ban on assault weapons, puts
limits on ammunition capacity and has new measures to keep
guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
"People who are mentally ill should not have access to guns,
that's common sense," Cuomo said at a signing ceremony in
Albany. "That's probably the hallmark of this bill, coming up
with a system that allows for mental-health screens."
The measure limits magazine capacity to no more than seven
cartridges - the current limit is 10 cartridges - and
requires a statewide re-registration of all handguns and
grandfathered assault weapons.
"Seven bullets in a gun, why? Because the high-capacity
magazines that give you the capacity to kill a large number
of human beings in a very short period of time is nonsensical
to a civil society," Cuomo said.
Police have said the gunman in Newtown, 20-year-old Adam
Lanza, carried numerous high-capacity magazines and that he
changed gun clips several times, allowing him to unleash at
least 150 rounds in his 10-minute assault.
Gun rights advocates lashed out at Cuomo and New York's law,
decrying the speed at which the legislation moved through the
"The National Rifle Association and our New York members are
outraged at the draconian gun control bill that was rushed
through the process late Monday evening," the NRA, the
nation's most powerful gun rights lobby group, said in a
"These gun control schemes have failed in the past and will
have no impact on public safety and crime," the NRA said.
Also on Tuesday in Danbury, Connecticut, not far from
Newtown, gun control advocates gathered for a rally outside a
Walmart store to demand Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the nation's
largest gun retailer, stop selling assault weapons.
Among those at the rally were Lori Haas, whose daughter was
injured in the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, and Pam Simon,
who was wounded in the 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that
also critically injured former Congresswoman Gabrielle
The killings in Newtown, a rural New England town of 27,000,
shocked the country and prompted Obama to form a task force
headed by Vice President Joe Biden to find ways to curb gun
violence. Obama is scheduled to unveil the recommendations on
Obama has signaled he will ask Congress to ban military-style
assault weapons, require stronger background checks for
buyers and put tighter controls on high-capacity magazine
Opponents of the New York legislation argued it would not
prevent an attack like Newtown from occurring in New York and
also would not bring down the state's homicide rate because
so few murders are committed with rifles of any kind.
Assemblyman Raymond Walter, a Republican from upstate New
York, said New York's violent crime statistics show the state
has a murder rate of just four people per 100,000, but
"rifles account for .03 of that."
Were comparable legislation in place in Connecticut, "it
would not have stopped that horrible and tragic crime," said
Assemblyman Joseph Saladino, a Republican from Long Island.
The new legislation would also increase monitoring of
high-volume ammunition purchases, in-person or over the
Internet, and current owners of assault weapons would be
required to register them, as is required with handguns.
This week, officials in Maryland and Delaware also vowed to
press for their own state legislation to tighten bans on
assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Included in the New York law is an exemption allowing gun
permit holders to opt to have their identities kept private,
a measure that comes after the White Plains, New York-based
Journal News published the names of thousands of local