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January 16, 12

NEWS / Background checks mandatory for almost all gun sales in NY – new law

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new gun control bill into law Tuesday, making it harder for people with past criminal convictions or involuntary commitments to buy firearms, lowering the legal limit for gun magazines, expanding law enforcement authority to confiscate weapons, and toughening penalties for gun-related crimes and violations. New York becomes the first state to bolster its gun control legislation following the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in neighboring Connecticut last month.

The measures, touted as the nations toughest, will oblige all gun sales and transfers to be conducted through a federal firearms licensee, subject to a federal National Instant Criminal Background Check. The only exception to this clause would be in the case of a gun being transferred to someone in the immediate family of possessor. While this closes the so-called private sales loophole in New York State, as unlicensed gun vendors were previously not required to conduct background checks, it still relies on an imperfect federal background check system, with information about criminal convictions furnished by states on a largely voluntary basis.

Law enforcement in New York now has the right to confiscate weapons from individuals believed to be psychologically unstable. Psychologist and other health professionals are now required to alert mental health officials if they believe that their patient may engage in conduct that would harm others or themselves. If that patients name appears in the gun registration database, his/her license would get suspended and law enforcement would be authorized to confiscate his/her weapons.

While New York already had a ban on assault weapons, the new law expands their definition to include any semi-automatic pistol, rifle or shotgun with one military style feature. The maximum magazine capacity is now seven rounds, down from the previous legal limit of ten.

The new law will limit gun violence through common sense, reasonable reforms that include addressing the risks posed by mentally ill people who have access to guns and banning high capacity magazines and lethal assault weapons, Governor Cuomo said after signing the legislation. Cuomo also noted that the measures are not aimed against hunters, sportsmen or legal owners who use their guns appropriately.

The law also establishes harsher penalties for those violating its provisions, or other gun-control measures. For example, illegally possessing a firearm is now a class E felony, and not a misdemeanor as it was before. Sharing a gun with a person who is not authorized to own a gun and commits a crime now constitutes criminal facilitation.

The so-called Webster Provision will upgrade the murder of a first responder engaged in his or her duties to a Class A-1 felony, punishable by a mandatory life sentence without parole. The clause was included in the aftermath of another vicious shooting in New York last month, in which a man shot dead two firefighters who were extinguishing a fire before killing himself. The gunman also left a chilling note, stating that he wanted to do what I like doing best killing people.

The debate over gun control was put in the limelight following the series of deadly shootings last year which culminated in the horrific Sandy Hook massacre. President Barack Obama said the situation had to change, and called for tougher gun control measures on a federal level. An ad-hoc task force, chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, was set up to come up with specific measures by the end of January.

Tags: background check, criminal background check, criminal background, instant criminal background check, federal background check, national instant criminal background check, background checks,


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