New York to pass nation's first gun control bill since Newtown shooting

New York to pass nation's first gun control bill since Newtown shooting

POSTED: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 4:00pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 4:04pm

Lawmakers in New York are poised to approve a new set of gun laws intended to fortify the state's assault weapons ban, limit the number of bullets in magazines and strengthen rules that keep the mentally ill from obtaining firearms.

If passed, it would be the nation's first gun control bill since last month's massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 27 people, including 20 young children in an elementary school.

New York's GOP-controlled Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure in a 43-18 vote late Monday night, one week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo spelled out tough new gun control proposals in his annual State of the State address.

Cuomo, a first-term Democratic governor, called for a tightening of the state's assault weapons ban, background checks for people who purchase guns in private transactions and more restrictions on high-capacity magazines.

A Democratic-controlled Assembly, which has been largely in favor of tight gun laws, is expected to pass the measure Tuesday afternoon.

The tentative deal would include a statewide gun registry and add a uniform licensing standard across the state, altering the current system, in which each county or municipality sets a standard.

Residents would also be restricted to purchasing ammunition magazines that carry seven bullets, rather than 10.

And yet it remains unclear what effect the measure will have on the state's already stringent approach to gun control.

"The changes in New York are largely cosmetic," said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, who described existing regulations as "the toughest gun laws in the United States."

"The one change that arguably will have the greatest impact is the amendment to Kendra's Law, which will permit closer monitoring of the mentally ill," he said.

That 1999 law grants New York judges the authority to require residents to undergo psychiatric treatment if they meet certain criteria.

The proposed measures would extend Kendra's Law through 2017, expand outpatient treatment from six months to a year and require reviews before such treatment is allowed to expire.

New York's mental health professionals would also be governed by a new set of rules that would require them to report their patients to the state should the patients exhibit behavior suggesting they could be harmful to themselves or others.

"We're opening up an unprecedented window into what goes on in the therapy room," said Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, the director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"It would effect a major change in the usual presumptions of confidentiality."

The bill would also create mandatory life sentences for anyone who murders certain first responders, a provision that comes after two firefighters were killed in an ambush as they battled a blaze in upstate New York.

The vote coincides with a series of recommendations put together by Vice President Joe Biden meant to address the nation's gun violence.

Lawmakers in at least 10 other states are reviewing some form of new gun regulations in the new year. 

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