ALBANY, N.Y. - New York's Legislature has passed the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the Newtown, Conn. school shooting.
The "New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act" officially passed with a vote of 104 'yes' to 43 'no' in the Democrat-led Assembly just after 4 p.m. Tuesday, enacting a stricter assault weapons ban and provisions to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who make threats.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the NY SAFE Act into law at the Capitol immediately after saying, "This was an extraordinary accomplishment by the legislature of this state."
"Common sense can win and good people can win," Cuomo said. "You can make this state a safer state."
It passed the Senate run by a Republican-dominated coalition late Monday night with a 43-18 vote.
Supporters hail the bill as a model for the nation and gun-rights activists are condemning it as a knee-jerk piece of legislation that won't make anyone safer and is too extreme to win support in the rest of the country.
The landmark legislation - the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act - is a crackdown on assault weapons, changing the definition of an assault weapon to include many rifles that have a detachable clip or a military-style feature, banning high-capacity magazines, and limit the size of maximum rounds in an ammunition clip to seven bullets, down from the current ten.
The bill also creates a new gun registration database for the state, real-time tracking of ammunition purchases and includes measures to keep the mentally ill from guns. The bill requires mental health providers to notify law enforcement of anyone who seems to be a danger to their self or others. Police will be able to cross-check with the database on cases of mentally ill and have the ability to take the gun away from the person.
There are also tougher penalties for anyone caught with an illegal gun, called the Webster Provision, named after the Webster volunteer firefighters killed Christmas eve in the Rochester area. The provision states anyone convicted of shooting and killing a first responder will be sentenced to a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Owners of an estimated one million previously legal semi-automatic rifles, like the Bushmaster model used in the Newtown massacre a month ago, will be able to keep their weapons, but will have a year to register them with police.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is applauding lawmakers for working so quickly to make New York a safer place. The bipartisan effort was fueled by the Newton, Conn., tragedy that took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver applauded the legislation as well, saying the "solution to gun violence is not more guns."
"No civilian needs or should be able to purchase an assault weapon intended to kill as many human beings as swiftly as possible. Let us be perfectly clear – this bill is about protecting people," Silver said.
Governor Cuomo stated: "The Senators that voted for the NY SAFE Act of 2013 made a bold statement, coming together in a bipartisan, collaborative manner to meet the challenges that face our state and our nation, as we have seen far too many senseless acts of gun violence."
Bronx Democrat Sen. Jeffrey Klein says "This is not about taking anyone's rights away. It's about a safe society."
Republicans complained the measure was rammed through the Legislature and infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Assembly Minority Leader Republican Brian Kolb voted against the bill saying "the legislation that was passed today lacked sufficient public input and discussion to ensure that we provide meaningful protection for our children, families and communities."
"A lot of people say, 'Why do you need these guns?'" said Assemblyman James Tedisco, a Schenectady Republican. "It's part of the freedoms and liberties we have. ... It's for our public safety. It's to protect us from our own government."
He said the bill was dangerous because it would give people a "false sense of well-being."
Newly-elected Republican Senator Kathy Marchione opposed the bill saying, "I do not believe that law abiding citizens are the danger. I believe that mental illness and criminals with guns are a serious problem."
Senator Greg Ball also voted no, saying "I do not agree with taking an entire category of guns and rifles that are currently legal in the hands of people that are obeying the law, and making them illegal."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo made gun control a centerpiece to his progressive agenda in his State of the State address last week.
President Barack Obama will unveil his own proposals in response to the Newtown tragedy on Wednesday. He favors sweeping gun legislation, including a ban on assault weapons. But because of powerful opposition from the gun lobby, he is said to be weighing 19 steps he could take through executive action alone.
Those could include ordering stricter action against people who lie on gun-sale background checks, seeking to ensure more complete records in the federal database, and striking limits on federal research into gun use.