Assault Weapons Ban Proposed By Andrew Cuomo Would Be Toughest Anti-Gun Law In America

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to introduce some of the nation’s most restrictive bans on assault weapons in the wake of the Sandy Hook massace, reports the New York Times.

Describing New York gun laws as full of “more holes than Swiss cheese,” Cuomo plans to announce his proposal during his yearly State of the State address Wednesday afternoon. Highly placed sources say the governor is in intense negotiations with legislators in Albany; while the assembly is packed with Democrats eager for more restrictions on gun ownership, the Senate is controlled by a “bipartisan governing coalition” of pro-gun Republicans and dissident Democrats.

Sources indicate that the governor is considering tightening New York’s gun laws to become some of the strictest in the nation. Not only will the state increase regulations on assault weapons, it may impose lower limits on legal magazine capacity, expanded use of mental health records in background checks, and a new mandate that “gun permits be subject to periodic recertification.” Cuomo previously indicated that “confiscation could be an option” for assault weaponry legally owned by New Yorkers, but backed off that proposal following backlash by gun owners. According to the Washington Post, aides concluded “a buy-back program or mandating that gun owners sell their weapons to the state would be too costly for a cash-poor state government.”

New York’s gun laws are already some of the toughest in the country. Governor Cuomo, a shotgun owner, says “I think what the nation is saying now after Connecticut, what people in New York are saying is ‘Do something, please.’”

“This is a singular moment in the history of the gun control movement,” said Richard Aborn, president of New York City’s Citizens Crime Commission. Cuomo has a chance to “set the high-water mark” on gun laws, Aborn said.

Cuomo’s proposals have wide backing from other state officials. The state’s district attorneys issued legislative proposals on gun control Tuesday, calling for statewide proposals that include mandatory consecutive sentences for firearm crimes, a ban on high-capacity magazines, closing gun show loopholes, and requiring ammunition buyers to present identification at the time of sale. On Monday, more than 100 state legislators petitioned legislative leaders to pass tough gun laws, including limiting people to the purchase of one handgun a month, strengthening the state assault weapons ban, and requiring universal background checks.

“Most members of the public and most members of the legislature understand that reasonable restrictions on guns make sense,” said Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat who represents Manhattan’s East Side and co-chairs the New York chapter of State Legislators Against Illegal Guns.

The state GOP and gun ownership organizations have fought back. The New York criminal justice agency says that of 2011’s 769 homicides in the state, just five were committed with any kind of rifle. “The vast majority of people who own firearms in my district are law-abiding and extremely responsible,” said Republican state Senator Catherine Young, who represents Olean in western New York.

“… it’s illegal guns and untreated mental illness that are the problems,” Young added.

The proposals are “not about guns,” said Thomas King, head of New York’s biggest gun lobbying organization. They just want to be able to say “Look what we did; we’re going to make people safer … we passed more gun laws.”

“It’s a very divisive topic,” Cuomo recently said to reporters. “There’s a lot of energy on both sides. Some people are vehemently against, some people think we’re out of our minds for not passing it.”

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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