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Assembly passes NY SAFE 104 - 43

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Less than a day after the Senate passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE) the Assembly approved the bill in a 104 to 43 vote on Tuesday.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the bill into law just after 5 p.m. and hailed it as a “common sense” move for the state.

Key provisions of the law include a tougher assault weapons ban, stricter regulations on ammunition, more serious penalties for those who facilitate the acquisition of a rifle for someone who is unqualified, harsher sentences for those who murder first responders and mental health screening designed to keep firearms away from the mentally ill.

The law will also require background checks on all firearm purchases, including private sales.

“By passing measures to keep guns out of the hands of those that tend to target our volunteers and children, we are honoring all our first responders and the memories of those that have died needlessly,” Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa said in a statement.

The law further prevents detailed information about pistol permit carriers being available to the public – a key issue for Mrs. Russell.

Peter B. O’Connell, lobbyist for the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York, said the inclusion of harsher penalties against those who murder first responders was a pleasant surprise and very well received by the group’s legislative committee.

But the Assembly’s passage of the bill was not without opposition. More than four hours of at times heated debate passed before the law was approved during which numerous grievances were brought to the floor.

Several upstate gun dealers are unhappy with the legislation.

Joseph J. Russell, owner of Hilltop Hunting and Fishing, Canton, said the legislation signed into law on Tuesday will have a crippling impact on his business.

“In my opinion it’s going to end the gun business in this state,” Mr. Russell said.

NY SAFE is “costing me $200,000 a year in sales, conservatively,” Mr. Russell added, due to the weapons he will no longer be able to sell. NY SAFE is a sweeping piece of legislation designed to fundamentally impact the state’s gun culture.

The new definition of an assault weapon includes any semi-automatic rifle with detachable magazines and one of the following characteristics: a folding or telescoping stock, a pistol grip, a thumb hole stock, a second hand grip, a bayonet mount, a threaded barrel, a flash suppressor, a muzzle break, a muzzle compensator or a grenade launcher.

Semi-automatic pistols and shotguns fall under similar classifications. Under the law, assault weapons currently owned in the state will need to be registered and cannot be sold to anyone within the state besides licensed dealers.

The law also requires every purchase of ammunition be accompanied by a state background check.

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, D-Brooklyn, cosponsor of the bill, said NY SAFE was drafted with help from the state police.

“This bill was not drafted in an ivory tower,” Mr. Lentol said, responding to criticism that NY SAFE inadequately reflects the reality of gun ownership in the state.

Much of the criticism, however, revolved around the speed at which the law was acted on.

“We only received this law 14 hours ago,” Assemblyman J. Anthony Jordan, R-Jackson, said.

Mr. Jordan went on to say that the Legislature had “not had the opportunity to examine this by the light of day.”

That being said, Mr. Jordan was particularly disappointed with the stipulation requiring all ammunition purchases to be accompanied by a background check.

“If I go to a local sporting store to buy .22 shells there is now a process that has to be followed,” Mr. Jordan said, arguing that the regulation goes too far.

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black Water, said the law doesn’t do enough to deal with the mentally ill.

“Until we straighten out what kind of prescriptions and what kind of drugs our young people are on, we may never stop the violence that is going on today,” Mr. Blankenbush said.

Mr. Lentol admitted several “chapter amendments” will be required for the bill. In particular the bill has confusing language that could be read to require even law enforcement officers be unarmed in school buildings.

“That’s another boo-boo we have in this bill,” Assemblyman Alfred C. Graf, R-Holbrook, said.

Richard L. Jones, owner of North Woods Outfitters in Potsdam agreed the law is damaging.

Although all the rifles Mr. Jones currently sells meet the new assault rifle regulations, he said the ammunition regulations will prove to be so time consuming he will lose business. Mr. Jones said providing background checks on people who are headed out to go hunting will prove especially challenging on busy days like “the day before rifle season. These are honest, law abiding citizens just want to go deer hunting and they want ammunition. It’s like gassing up your car. These aren’t criminals.”

Following the passage of the law, high capacity magazines that are not classified as “relics” must be turned in to the authorities. Ten-round magazines will no longer be sold in the state but anyone who owns one can still use it so long as they do not put more than seven rounds in it.

Anyone owning an assault weapon has one year to register it. A failure to register an assault weapon could result in being charged with a class E felony.

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