New York agrees tough gun controls
New York state politicians have agreed the first and toughest gun control laws in the nation.
The landmark legislation is a crackdown on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and includes measures to keep the mentally ill from guns.
The bipartisan effort was fuelled by the Newton tragedy that took the lives of 20 first graders and six teachers.
President Barack Obama has endorsed the clampdown on weapons.
Bronx Democrat Senator Jeffrey Klein said: “This is not about taking anyone’s rights away. It’s about a safe society.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo made gun control a centrepiece to his progressive agenda in his State of the State address last week.
The measure passed the state Senate 43-18 early today and the Assembly plans to take the issue up today. It is expected to pass easily.
Politicians in New York state pressed ahead with their proposals despite the opposition of pro-gun campaign groups.
Among the measures are further restrictions on the state’s ban on assault weapons, limits on the size of magazines to seven bullets, down from the current 10, and more stringent background checks for sales.
The provisions would also create a mandatory police registry of assault weapons and a more powerful tool to require the reporting of mentally ill people who say they intend to use a gun illegally.
Mr Obama said politicians would have to “examine their own conscience” as they tackle gun control legislation after the horrifying Connecticut school shootings last month.
But he admitted he may not win the approval of all in a Congress reluctant to tighten restrictions.
The influential National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-gun groups are fiercely opposed to tighter laws.
Mr Obama spoke yesterday at a White House news conference a month after the December 14th elementary school rampage, which ignited a national discussion on preventing mass shootings.
The 20-year-old gunman killed 20 children and six adults at the school before committing suicide.
The president said he would unveil a comprehensive roadmap for curbing gun violence within days, based on recommendations from vice president Joe Biden.
He spent weeks holding talks with gun victim groups, the entertainment and video game industries and gun owner campaign groups.
Mr Obama’s plan is expected to include both legislative proposals and steps he can implement by himself using his presidential powers.
But the most sweeping and contentious elements - including an assault weapons ban - will require approval from a Congress that has been reluctant to tackle gun control for more than a decade.
The politically powerful NRA has vowed to fight any measure that would limit access to guns and ammunition, a hardline position that could sway some Republicans and conservative Democrats.
Despite the opposition, Mr Obama said he would “vigorously pursue” measures to tighten gun laws.
The president’s new resolve follows a lack of movement in tackling gun violence throughout much of his first term, despite several high-profile shootings.
He called the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown the worst day of his presidency and vowed to take action.
Parents of the slain Connecticut children added their voices to the debate yesterday.
Members of the newly formed group Sandy Hook Promise called for an open-minded discussion about a range of issues, including guns, mental health and safety in schools and other public places.
White House officials believe moving swiftly on gun proposals at a national level, before the shock over the Newtown shooting fades, gives Mr Obama the best chance to get his proposals through Congress.
The president insisted that responsible gun owners who have weapons for protection or hunting “don’t have anything to worry about” under his proposals.
The NRA insists gun control conflicts with the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees the right of citizens to bear arms.
The assault weapons ban, which Mr Obama has long supported, is expected to face the toughest road.
Congress passed a 10-year ban on the high-grade military-style weapons in 1994, but supporters did not have the votes to renew it once it expired in 2004.