On Tuesday night, New York Governor Cuomo signed into law the first gun legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings.
The major provisions of the bill are as follows (from CBS):
- Further restrict assault weapons to define them by a single feature, such as a pistol grip. Current law requires two features.
- Make the unsafe storage of assault weapons a misdemeanor.
- Mandate a police registry of assault weapons.
- Establish a state registry for all private sales, with a background check done through a licensed dealer for a fee, excluding sales to immediate relatives.
- Require a therapist who believes a mental health patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally to report the threat to a mental health director who would then have to report serious threats to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services. A patient’s gun could be taken from him or her.
- Ban the internet sale of assault weapons.
- Require stores that sell ammunition to register with the state, run background checks on buyers of bullets and keep an electronic database of bullet sales.
- Restrict ammunition magazines to seven bullets, from the current national standard of 10. Current owners of higher-capacity magazines would have a year to sell them out of state. Someone caught with eight or more bullets in a magazine could face a misdemeanor charge.
- Require that stolen guns be reported within 24 hours. Otherwise, the owner would face a possible misdemeanor.
- Increase sentences for gun crimes including for taking a gun on school property.
- Increase penalties for shooting first responders, called the “Webster provision.” Two firefighters were killed when shot by a person who set a fire in the western New York town of Webster last month. The crime would be punishable by life in prison without parole.
- Limit the state records law to protect handgun owners from being identified publicly. The provision would allow a handgun permit holder a means to maintain privacy under the Freedom of Information law.
- Require pistol permit holders or those who will be registered as owners of assault rifles to be recertified at least every five years to make sure they are still legally able to own the guns.
There are provisions in this bill which may, in fact, lead to reduced gun violence. Noteworthy are line items that restrict the ability for individuals to obtain guns without background checks and purchase firearms via internet sales as well as the legal requirement to report stolen guns within 24 hours.
However, not surprising at all are the many reactionary items that place burdens on law abiding citizens while doing nothing to deter actual violence nor prevent people with criminal intent from obtaining and using weapons.
The law makes carrying a firearm on school grounds a serious crime. I'm sure this low-level felony will deter criminals seeking to commit murder in the first degree. It will certainly punish anyone for keeping a gun in their car in the parking lot, which could otherwise be used to quickly stop a shooter, which has happened before.
The mental health provision is a good one in theory; however health care professionals decry the violations of doctor-patient interactions. Knowing that doctors will have to report all inflammatory statements relating to violence made by their patients (regardless of whether that patient even owns a firearm) will cause many patients to be less open.
Also, it is almost too easy to envision detached bureaucrats using their "judgment" to revoke the rights of Americans will little cause or due process. I've known too many people, mostly kids, get tossed into the maelstrom that is our country's broken mental health system with little ability to change their circumstances. Thinking about such a scenario recalls the case of Lis Salander of Steig Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a woman who is abused by her case worker, unable to escape due to the crushing and impersonal bureaucracy of Norway's social services system.
As I mentioned in a past article, the mere act of knowing where the guns are will not prevent another Sandy Hook shooting, or anything like it, from ever happening again. Laws that name and shame gun owners, or require registry into databases only provide easy access to information that is only useful after a crime is a committed.
Some items of the new law are just plain obnoxious, doing nothing to decrease violence, while placing burdens on current and future gun owners. The limitations on cartridges made sense when it was being reduced from 30 rounds to 10 in past laws, but this law reduces it by only 3 and forces every gun owner to now go through the trouble of selling off their 10 round cartridges (a standardized size) out of state within a year. It also redefines the definition of an assault weapon, meaning many gun owners are now in possession of illegal weapons. I couldn't find anything in the text of the law that grandfather's in legal weapons owned before this bill, though these things are tough to read and I may have missed it. Furthermore, gun owners are now required to recertify every 5 years. While this line item isn't wholly without merit, one would imagine that given how many more people die every year in car accidents, we'd be forcing drivers to retest every five years as well, and you can bet there will be a hefty fee, payable to the State of New York, to recertify.
Because of the reclassification of many weapons, this law has, overnight, turned thousands of New Yorkers into criminals who now must get rid of their weapons, that until today were perfectly legal or else face heft penalties including misdemeanor or even possible felony offenses.
This "first step" to much more comprehensive gun control legislation is with rare exception, nothing but feel-good nonsense so the left can pat themselves on the back for doing something while in actuality doing little to prevent future gun violence and in some instances possibly even enabling it by disarming the good guys, such as school principals.