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Stephanie Gelber
Stephanie Gelber
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New York is First State to Tighten Gun Laws after Sandy Hook Massacre

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Governor Andrew Cuomo just signed into law and thereby made New York the first state to enact tighter restrictions on guns after the December 14, 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The bill includes an immediate ban on semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and pistols with a "military-style feature," such as a flash suppressor or a bayonet mount. Guns that are currently legal but are soon to be banned would be grandfathered in, but their owners would have to register with the state. Magazines would be limited to a maximum capacity of seven bullets, down from the current 10. In addition, the legislation increases sentences for gun crimes, including for taking a gun onto school property and includes the "Webster provision," a life-without-parole sentence for anyone found to have killed a first responder. The provision is a reference to the Christmas Eve 2012 shooting in the Monroe County town, where two firefighters were shot and killed.

Assemblyman Steve Katz, R-Yorktown, Westchester County, said the bill — known as the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or NY SAFE — is based on Cuomo's "misguided, egotistic notion that this will advance his presidential aspirations." Others accused Cuomo of trying to seize headlines by rushing a bill through the Legislature and becoming the first state to act after Newtown. Not surprisingly, the National Rifle Association wrote in an alert sent to its members that “Cuomo seized the opportunity to exploit tragedy and put his own personal politics ahead of sound public policy." In defending his actions, Governor Cuomo stated that "If there is an issue that fits the definition of necessity in the state of New York today, I believe it is reducing gun violence."

Unfortunately, according to a USA TODAY-Gannett survey of governors and legislators, more than three-fourths of the states have no plans to weigh new firearms restrictions this year, and six states are considering loosening restrictions. The way I see it, as both an attorney and resident of New York, I am proud that Governor Cuomo has taken the lead on tougher gun measures, as some of the alternatives posed by the NRA and other gun toting fanatics, such as having armed guards in all of our schools to protect our children, are ludicrous. If, as claimed by some, Governor Cuomo has an ulterior motive of enacting good laws just to support a run for the Presidency in 2016, he might be clever enough to just get my vote.