(ALBANY, N.Y.) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out a plan Wednesday to give his state some of the strictest gun control laws in the country.
In his annual State of the State address, Cuomo promised to “enact the toughest assault weapon ban in the nation, period,” following the shooting deaths of 20 students and six adults at an elementary school in nearby Newtown, Conn., last month.
“I know that the issue of gun control is hard,” Cuomo said during his address in Albany, N.Y. “I know it’s political. I know it’s controversial….I say to you: Forget the extremists. It’s simple, no one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer and too many innocent people have died already. End the madness, now!”
Cuomo’s voice rose as he urged the passing of “safe, reasonable gun control,” asking New York to “set an example for the rest of the nation.”
He then laid out a seven-point plan, calling it “a gun policy in this state that is reasonable, that is balanced, that is measured.”
“Gun violence has been on a rampage,” he said. “In one word it is just enough.”
He added that he is a gun owner himself, and his proposal “is not taking away people’s guns.”
In an address that was close to an hour and a half long, Cuomo called for requiring federal background checks of all gun sales, including private ones; the ban of high-capacity magazines; enacting tougher penalties for illegal gun use, guns on school grounds, and gun activity by gangs; keeping guns from people who are mentally ill; banning the direct Internet sale of ammunition; one state check on all firearms purchases; and programs to cut gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods.
Cuomo claimed New York once led the country in gun control when, in 1911, it passed “Sullivan’s Law,” which required a permit to possess a handgun.
New York has an existing assault weapons ban, but many high-powered rifles that have a capacity greater than 10 rounds don’t come under the ban because it exempts magazines manufactured before 1994. If a magazine is not stamped then it can’t be banned.
Cuomo’s new legislation would ban large-capacity magazines regardless of the date of manufacture.
One of the points of his plan that may get the most attention, especially in the wake of the Newtown and Aurora, Colo., mass shootings, is keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. The Democratic governor’s plan would ensure that when a mental health professional determines a gun owner is likely to hurt himself or others, the risk must be reported and the gun removed by law enforcement.
According to the New York Daily News, Democratic New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told reporters in Albany before Cuomo’s speech that an agreement on tougher legislation between lawmakers and the governor was close, adding he might keep Assembly members in Albany to complete a deal.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who attended the address, has also been outspoken on the issue of gun control since the Sandy Hook school shooting.
This week, his group, Mayors Against Gun Violence, released a new television commercial to push for action from the federal government. The ad featured Roxanna Green, the mother of Christina Taylor-Green, a 9-year-old killed two years ago this week in Tucson, Ariz., in the shooting that severely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
In the ad Roxanna Green asked, “How many more children must die before Washington does something to end our gun violence problem?”
Bloomberg also released a statement after Cuomo’s address saying he was “struck by his passionate leadership on gun violence.”
“New York State has led the nation with strong, common-sense gun laws, and the governor’s new proposals will build on that tradition,” Bloomberg said. “They will help law enforcement keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous people and save lives. We strongly support his proposals to close loopholes and strengthen existing laws, and we look forward to working with him and the State Legislature to adopt them.”
Cuomo’s address came on the same day Vice President Biden began two days of meetings at the White House with victims of gun violence, gun safety advocate groups and gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, and gun sellers, including Walmart.
Biden told reporters before the meeting that they were at the White House “to deal with a problem that requires our immediate action, urgent action,” adding that he and President Obama “are determined to take action.”
“I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion, unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing,” Biden said.
Cuomo wasn’t the only governor to speak out about gun control Wednesday. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy also used his State of the State address to stress “more guns are not the answer,” and to announce the formation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission made up of experts in mental health, education, law enforcement and first response.
“Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom,” Malloy said, referring to the NRA’s proposal to have armed guards outside of every school in the country.
“We also know that this conversation must take place nationally,” Malloy said. “As long as weapons continue to travel up and down I-95, what is available for sale in Florida or Virginia can have devastating consequences here in Connecticut….Our focus will be first and foremost on protecting Connecticut’s families.”
Another Northeastern governor, Republican Chris Christie of New Jersey, did not touch the subject of gun control in his address Tuesday. When asked on ABC News’ Good Morning America Wednesday why he didn’t bring up the topic, he said, “Given what’s happened to our state, the majority of the time should be talking about Sandy.”
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