Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What Everyone Should Know About New York’s New Gun Law

The New York State legislature has passed a piece of gun legislation called the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or NYSAFE. The comprehensive measure makes sweeping changes to how the state approaches firearms and mental health. Here’s everything you need to know about the measure:

1. New York is the first state to do something since Newtown. There has been a lot of talk about gun safety legislation in the wake of the horrific murder of 20 little kids and seven adults, but New York legislators are the first to pass any measures at all that might help to prevent such incidents from recurring. At least ten states have proposed gun laws.

2. It regulates access to the most deadly weapons and ammunition. One of the primary functions of the bill is that it bans certain guns and ammunition that allow a murderer to kill with little effort. The bill, the New York Times reports, “[bans] semiautomatic pistols and rifles with detachable magazines and one military-style feature, as well as semiautomatic shotguns with one military-style feature. New Yorkers who already own such guns could keep them but would be required to register them with the state.” New York is the third state with this kind of assault weapons ban, along with Massachusetts and New Jersey. It also bans magazine clips that hold more than seven bullets.

3. It protects the mentally ill. The bill will require gun owners in homes with mentally ill people to properly lock up firearms. It also requires mental health professionals to report to authorities any patient who is suicidal or has thoughts about killing others, so that guns owned by such individuals can be confiscated if they are found to be a public threat. Legislators also included another protection for the mentally ill: It expands the ability of judges to order mentally ill people to seek outpatient care.

4. Republican state senators supported it. The Republican-controlled state senate voted in favor of the bill by a margin of 43 to 18. Republican senators were vocal in their support. State Sen. Dean Skelos, a Republican from Long Island, told Bloomberg News, “he voted for Cuomo’s bill because it strikes a balance between gun owners’ rights and public safety.”

The bill is more than a symbolic answer to a tragedy; it will probably help to curb violence in the state. A recent Washington Post study showed that, when the federal assault weapons ban was in place for ten years, far fewer high-capacity guns were found at crime scenes — only 9 percent. After the ban expired, that jumped to 20 percent.

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