The New York State Assembly is expected to pass a major new gun law today that would make them the first legislative body to react to the Newtown massacre. Late on Monday night, the Republican-controlled state Senate passed a package of new rules by an overwhelming vote of 43-18. The bill now goes to the Democratic-led Assembly where it is expected to easily win approval before heading to the desk of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo pushed hard for the bill following the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting just one month ago. And on the first full day of the new session, he got his wish—even waiving a normal three-day waiting period for votes on new bills. The bill will expand on the state's pre-existing assault weapons ban and also outlaws guns with any "military-style features." People who already own such guns can keep them, but must register their weapons with the state. It will also add new tracking measures for ammunition dealers and bullet sales.
It also puts new purchase restriction on people who are deemed mentally ill. In a potentially controversial change, health officials must now report patients they believe to be a danger to others, and such reporting would authorize police to confiscate any firearm those patients already own. The concern is that gun-owning patients won't seek treatment out of fear they will lose their weapons.
Once signed, the bill would make New York's gun laws the stiffest in the nation—which is exactly what Cuomo was looking for. One legislator who voted against the bill said the only life it would save is "is the political life of a governor who wants to be president." By beating Congress to the act on gun control, the state takes a decisive, mostly bi-partisan response to the shooting and puts pressure on national authorities to act. President Obama is expected to announce the recommendations of Vice President Joe Biden's gun commission later this week. The federal proposals are expected to be similar to New York's, though they are unlikely to go as far ... or pass as easily.