New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo won a state Senate vote to toughen gun controls and make it easier to keep firearms away from the mentally ill, putting New York a step closer to becoming the first to take action after the Newtown school massacre.
The bill passed by the Senate 43-18 Monday would tighten rules on firearm sales, bar all ammunition clips that hold more than seven rounds, and close gaps in a 2000 ban on assault weapons, which Cuomo said has more "holes than Swiss cheese." It also would give authorities ways to seize guns owned legally by mentally ill people, if they're deemed to be a threat.
"We have seen far too many senseless acts of gun violence," Cuomo, a 55-year-old Democrat, said in a statement following the Senate vote.
If passed by the Assembly, New York would be the first to act on growing calls for tighter gun restrictions since Dec. 14, when a 20-year-old man killed 20 children and six adults in Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School. Democratic governors and lawmakers in at least 10 states are seeking new controls, challenging the firearms lobby's political clout.
Sen. Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican who leads his party in the chamber, said he voted for Cuomo's bill because it strikes a balance between gun owners' rights and public safety.
"Your right to own a gun will be protected in terms of confidentiality and there will be no confiscation of weapons, which at one point was being considered," Skelos told reporters just before voting. "It protects the Second Amendment."
The package is the toughest in the nation, with the lowest legal magazine capacity, Cuomo said in Albany before the vote.
"I believe it's the most comprehensive response to this crisis," Cuomo told reporters in a briefing. "New Yorkers can feel their government is responsive and this state is safer."
Assembly leaders postponed action on the measure until 10 a.m. Tuesday.
The shooter in Newtown, Adam Lanza, used a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle similar to those made at a Remington Arms Co. plant in Ilion, in upstate New York. Two weeks later, two firefighters were killed in Webster, near Rochester, by a 62- year-old man also wielding a Bushmaster. About three dozen workers from the Ilion plant were in Albany yesterday to protest tighter controls on the weapons.
New York law already bans clips made after 1994 that can hold more than 10 bullets. The Bushmaster used in Connecticut held 30 rounds, according to state police there. Cuomo's measure would make all high-capacity magazines illegal in New York.
"It's a knee-jerk reaction to tragedy," said Jamie Rudwall, president of the United Mine Workers of America Local 717, which represents about 1,200 Remington workers. "I have three small children myself. I know first-hand what it means. What we need is to look at ways to prevent that kind of stuff as opposed to eliminating the rights of law-abiding citizens."
The measure would require professionals such as doctors to report to authorities when a mentally ill person makes threats or discloses impulses to use a gun illegally. Such reports could be used to permit the seizure of weapons owned by the person.
Cuomo's bill also would give holders of pistol permits protection from public exposure, if they ask for it. A suburban New York newspaper recently published the names of those people in Westchester and Rockland counties, using information obtained through Freedom of Information laws and drawing criticism for jeopardizing the safety of at least some of those residents.
In Connecticut, Governor Dan Malloy said last week that he'll set up an advisory panel to propose new gun controls, similar to a task force created by President Barack Obama. In Colorado, where 12 people died in July during a shooting in a movie theater, Governor John Hickenlooper has suggested that "universal background checks" be required for gun purchases.
The proposals mark a shift from previous years, when debate focused on broadening the right to carry guns, including at colleges or in public buildings.
"The main thrust has been on expanding gun rights, not a retraction," said Richard Feldman, president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, a Rindge, New Hampshire-based group that opposes restrictions on gun owners. "This is the most intense discussion of the gun issue in my lifetime."
Vice President Joe Biden, who leads Obama's task force, said last week that there's a growing agreement on the need for background checks on all types of gun sales and a ban on high- capacity magazines. Obama said yesterday that he received recommendations from Biden for legislative and executive actions to stop gun violence as part of the response to Newtown.
The National Rifle Association, the nation's largest gun- rights group, with 4 million members, said last week that Obama is moving to "attack the Second Amendment," which protects the right to bear arms. The Fairfax, Virginia-based group's opposition poses an obstacle in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans, who more often side with gun-rights advocates than do Democrats.
Among the states whose governors or legislative leaders are calling for new gun controls are Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland and Oregon.
More proposals may emerge as legislative sessions in many states begin in coming weeks. In a recent letter to supporters, the NRA said state lawmakers "will soon be voting on dozens of new bills to impose greater restrictions on your right to own and use firearms." Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the group, didn't respond to a telephone message seeking comment on proposals that have already been put forward.
Republicans control a majority of governorships and state legislatures. Gun-control measures will be more difficult to pass in those states, said Andy Pelosi, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence, a New York-based group.
"We're going to have to fight a very uphill battle, whether it's in Washington or state legislatures," Pelosi said.
--Editors: Mark Schoifet, Ted Bunker, Pete Young.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at email@example.com 01-15-13 0007ESTCopyright © 2015, CT Now