New York enacted the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (NY SAFE ACT) on Jan. 15, 2013, becoming the first state to respond to the outcry for stricter gun laws after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. issued the following statement regarding the passage of this legislation:
It will provide law enforcement with stronger tools to protect our communities from gun violence, including provisions that better enable us to combat gun trafficking and violent gangs, and others that close the state gun show loophole and regulate large-quantity sales of ammunition and firearms.
It was already illegal in New York to buy a magazine that held over ten rounds of ammunition. According to the new law, beginning on Apr. 15, 2013, only magazines that contain seven rounds or less can be sold. This part of the legislation is being criticized because it currently makes no exemptions for law enforcement personnel. Lawmakers have said that they have found other minor mistakes in the legislation and that all will be addressed this week and corrected before the laws take effect.
The NY SAFE ACT also makes the state the first to track, in real time, ammunition purchases. This is in an effort to alert authorities to high volume purchases.
New York also passed laws with a stricter definition of what constitutes an assault weapon. Generally all handguns, rifles and shotguns will be considered an assault weapon if they are semiautomatic and have a military style feature. Examples of these features include, a folding stock, a second hand-grip or a flash suppressor. If a state resident already owns an assault weapon, that person may keep it and has until Jan 15, 2014 to register that weapon with the state police.
To address the background check loophole involving private gun sales, beginning on Mar. 15, 2013, this legislation will require all gun transactions to obtain a National Instant Criminal Background Check conducted by a federal firearms licensee. The licensee will give the prospective buyer a form stating that he or she has passed the background check.
In order to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous mentally ill individuals, this legislation requires mental health professionals to report to mental health officials when they believe a patient is likely to engage in violent behavior. If the patient owns a firearm, law enforcement will then take possession of it.
This legislation also toughens penalties for crimes committed involving firearms. Most notably, the state passed the Webster Provision. This provision mandates a life sentence without the possibility of parole if a person is convicted of the murder of a first-responder who is engaged in his or her duties. The provision is named in honor of Lt. Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka, who were killed in Webster, New York on December 24, 2012.
To field the many questions gun owners have about this new legislation, lawmakers and state police have set up a website and a hotline. People with questions can call 1-888-LAW-GUNS Monday through Friday during regular business hours.