What Is In New York’s New Gun Law?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Seth Wenig/Associated Press

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Seth Wenig/Associated Press

New York state is expected to pass one of the toughest gun laws in America in the wake of the Newtown school shooting and the Webster, NY attack that killed two fire fighters. This law will feature some unique provisions that we should explore further.

In respect to an assault weapons ban (AWB), it eliminates many of the loopholes that were featured in the 90s federal AWB. Huffington Post reports:

Under current state law, assault weapons are defined by having two “military rifle” features, such as folding stock, muzzle flash suppressor or bayonet mount. The proposal would reduce that to one feature [emphasis mine], including the popular pistol grip. The language specifically targeted the military-style rifle used in the Newtown shootings.

Current owners of those guns will have to register them.

I have pointed out in the past that defining an ‘assault weapon’ is extremely difficult. As far as operating mechanism goes, there is very little difference between a semi-automatic hunting rifle and an AR-15. Because of this difficulty, old AWB did not in fact ban any assault weapons. I purchased my Bushmaster AR-15 during the old AWB. These new provisions could restrict the sales of ‘true’ assault weapons. Banning assault weapons is not the only part of this aggressive law.

Private sales of assault weapons to someone other than an immediate family would be subject to a background check through a dealer. New Yorkers also would be barred from buying assault weapons over the Internet, and failing to safely store a weapon could lead to a misdemeanor charge.

Ammunition magazines would be restricted to seven bullets, from the current 10, and current owners of higher-capacity magazines would have a year to sell them out of state. An owner caught at home with eight or more bullets in a magazine could face a misdemeanor charge.

Stores that sell ammunition will have to register with the state, run background checks on buyers of bullets and keep an electronic database of bullet sales.

Republicans, to their credit, have insisted that guns are not the only problem we face. Mental health issues abound in our society. This law also takes some steps to address mental health threats:

In another provision, a therapist who believes a mental health patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally would be required to report it to a mental health director who would have to notify the state. A patient’s gun could be taken from him or her.

So what do you think? Does this go too far and violate gun owners’ rights? Or does it not go far enough to protect society? I look forward to your thoughts.

Gun control archives here.

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9 Responses to What Is In New York’s New Gun Law?

  1. I doubt it will do much overall.

    But I do have to say it only makes sense to do background checks regardless of who is selling or buying a gun. The idea that you need a background check if you go to a store to buy a gun but you don’t if you get it through private sales or gun shows or what not never made a lick of sense. Either background checks should be required or not but half assing it won’t accomplish anything.

    Keeping a data base of ammo sales might help identify individual who potentially could do something. Unfortunately it would be probably have a lot of false positives. That is there are many who buy a good bit of ammo but don’t intend on killing anybody. Also you don’t need 10k rounds to go on a rampage, just a few clips can cause a lot of damage.

    Next the whole idea of assault weapons ban make sense on paper but not in reality. It appeals because there is no reason civilians should have weapons primarily designed for use on humans. Also prima facia it sounds like it would keep more deadly weapons away from people. But the reality is that the label assault weapon has no bearing on its efficacy in killing humans. It doesn’t dictate the rate of fire, caliber of the gun or anything else meaningful. For the most part it is based on largely cosmetic attributes of the weapon. Besides that any ban on assault weapons that grandfathers in existing one will be of no effect. If people are allowed to keep the existing weapons and the ban in only on production of new assault weapons then it will do nothing to eliminate those weapons. Realistically a ban on assault weapons will result in little more than an increase in the price for those items.

    Finally mental health does play a role but how can we effectively restrict weapons based on mental health. As is mental health practitioners who hear a credible threat to one’s self or another person is supposed to report it. That is current mental health practice. Furthermore if the mental health professional believe the threat to be credible they can have the individual involuntarily committed for a psych eval and potentially court ordered treatment. The NY law would only add that the individual’s gun could be taken away. Well if they are such a significant threat then the mental health professional will have already had them involuntarily committed so the weapon would do them no good. Rather the real problem is identifying credible threats. It is not easy to determine if an individual is truly considering suicide or homicide. You would be surprised at how often you hear people threaten suicide or homicide in the mental health field. Yet most are not going to really do anything. Furthermore mental health professions are stuck between a rock and a hard place when deciding if they should have somebody committed (or in this case have their weapon taken). That is because it destroys the trust between the patient and the mental health professional which is the basis for therapy. Trust is the basis of any therapeutic relationship and destroying that effectively eliminates any possibility of making progress with the individual.

    • Thanks again for your comments. Its great that you’ve been so active here!

      The one piece of this that in my opinion will work is the registration part. Are you familiar with how the ‘class III’ process works? Currently in the US, virtually all small arms are legal. Machine guns included. They get registered as ‘class III,’ and have to follow specific rules. To my knowledge, no class III weapons have ever been used in a crime. Registration works because it ensures only law-abiding people can have the weapons.

      As a gun owner myself, registration preserves my freedom to own whatever I want but gives law enforcement practical tools to enforce gun laws.

      • Registering firearms is good. Businesses should register all the guns they have and report when and to whom they are sold. Individuals should be required to register their firearms and report any private sales or thefts. It only makes sense to keep track of guns. At least then the government would know if firearms are missing, stolen or what not. It would definitely aid in the enforcement of gun laws.

        It could also aid in identifying individuals who could pose a threat. Though that could be challenging since you don’t want to assume every individual with numerous guns is a threat or that an individual with only a couple guns is not a threat. But registering firearms could at least point in the right direction of possible threats.

        On a side note, I have been active on your blog because I just joined and stumbled across your blog. I have enjoyed what you are writing and discussing it with you so I will probably stick around.

      • I’m glad you’ve found some interesting stuff here. Your comments have certainly added to the discussion.

        My goal is have a non-partisan, non-ideological, and civil area where people can talk about ideas instead of the more aggressive and hyperbolic stuff that’s out there.

        I’m still new to this (I started four months ago) and I don’t know if I’ve succeeded necessarily, but I am trying very hard to make this a site for people of any political persuasion.

        I do hope you stick around. I try to post 3 to 5 articles a day. Thanks again!

      • My goal in coming here was also to try and have non-partisan rational discussions of issues with people of all perspectives. This country needs more civil and rational discussions of politics rather than the vitriolic arguments that are ubiquitous in American politics. After seeing a couple of your posts I read your ‘about’ page and it clicked with what I am seeking here, hence replying to your stuff.

        Unfortunately I don’t have the time to write as many articles as you. So instead I am trying to find interesting article to reply to. While at the same time trying to write up some of the ideas I have kicked around for years so I can try and get them out into the discussion.

  2. Reblogged this on Real Talk and commented:
    Interesting post. What are your thoughts on the proposed law?

  3. I like the provision, although I don’t think it’s feasible to expect everyone to sell their assault weapons. Just won’t get done. Think it’s a step in the right direction.

    Btw, I’ve never asked you why you purchased the bushmaster. Do you hunt?

    • In this law current owners will keep their assault weapons. They’ll just have to register them.

      I was much younger, and a gun enthusiast, when I bought the bushmaster. I think it was 2002. I was also in the Army National Guard and carried one as my regular weapon.

      To be honest though, it was just a toy. There is no practical value to owning one. They are not good for home defense because the rounds will blow through walls, potentially hitting innocent people.

      I don’t want to project myself on others, but I have to believe the majority of these weapons are purchased as toys, like mine was. For me it was a purchase derived of my immaturity and insecurity.

      • Oh I must have misread that. I want them to end the manufacturing of them. Eventually people will run out of bullets.

        I assume most people bought it for the same reason you did. I just don’t think it offers any practical use.

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