Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New York Set To Adopt Stronger Gun and Mental Health Regulations: UPDATE: Gov. Cuomo Signing Tonight

The NYS State Senate passed their gun control/mental health comprehensive bill yesterday, and the Assembly is set to pass it today. Gov. Cuomo will probably sign before the end of the week (there's a 3-day waiting period unless a message of necessity is attached).

So, what does the bill include? The bill summary holds the key.

Ammunition limits:
The bill will cap magazine/clip size at 10 - anything more is illegal regardless of date of manufacture. Going forward, max clip/magazine size is 7. A mechanism is going to be put in place to identify high volume purchasers of ammo and these buyers will have to be run through the NICS database. The bill requires that any seller--whether located in New York or out of state-ship the ammunition to a dealer within New York for in-person

While the existing law granted non-expiring licenses, the new law will require relicensing every five years. Failure to recertify means revocation of the license.

Kendra's Law:
Well, it extends Kendra's Law through 2017 (granting judges the authority to issue orders that require people who meet certain criteria to regularly undergo psychiatric treatment and that failure to comply could result in commitment for up to 72 hours - such persons are not forced to take meds though).

Gun sales/transfers:
Background checks must be completed for all gun sales, except for immediate family. Private sellers may transfer a gun only if the buyer has obtained a federal "NICS" check. Further, dealers must maintain records of private sale background checks, and private sellers may charge a fee of up to $10 on a transaction. Transfers between immediate family members will be exempt from the requirements of this section.

For persons who live with those who are not allowed to own firearms, there's a new requirement for the lawful owner to safely secure those weapons (gun lock/safe).

Mental health:

Persons who are mentally ill and dangerous cannot retain or obtain a firearm. First, mental health records that are currently sent to NIDCS for a federal background check will also be housed in a New York State database. The law will require mental health professionals, in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment, to report if an individual they are treating is likely to engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to him- or herself or others. A good faith decision about whether to report will not be a basis for any criminal or civil liability. When a Section 9.46 report is made, the Division of Criminal Justice Services will determine whether the person possesses a firearms license and, if so, will notify the appropriate local licensing official, who must suspend the license. The person's firearms will then be removed.

Criminal penalties:
Criminal penalties are added or increased across a range of crimes, including straw purchases, increased penalties for firearms on school buses and school properties.

School safety:
The state will increase reimbursement to school districts seeking building safety upgrades (think bullet resistant glass, secured entry areas, etc.)

Most of these changes are reasonable, though there's reason to expect the NRA or others to challenge the mental health provisions, particularly when someone who is declared mentally incompetent to possess firearms has to have those firearms seized by local law enforcement. The NRA might also challenge the ammunition hold (clip/magazine) limits, but that's likely to pass Constitutional muster.

One of the reasons that these provisions passed the State Senate so easily is that these are really common-sense enhancements to existing law and eliminates loopholes in the existing law. It also addresses the mental health law and need to strengthen criminal penalties for straw purchases.

Upon passage, this will be among the strongest gun regulations in the nation, and it could also form the basis for provisions that the Obama Administration might take up to deal with the issue on a national basis.

Gov. Cuomo will be signing the SAFE act into law at a signing event in the Capitol Building at 4:45PM in Albany. It is the first major legislation taken up by any legislature in the country in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre and represents a significant tightening of registration and ownership rules for firearms. It will not be without controversy.


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