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New York state passes nation’s toughest gun laws

By Rich Bockmann

Lawmakers in Albany moved swiftly this week as the state Legislature passed a set of reforms to the state’s gun and mental health laws that Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to make a priority in his State of the State speech a week earlier.

The legislation, known as the NY Secure Firearms and Ammunition Enforcement Act of 2013, offers sweeping reforms to the kinds of guns New Yorkers may legally own, how they may acquire them and the penalties for illegally possessing firearms.

The act expanded the ban on assault weapons in the state.

The bill passed the state Senate Monday with bipartisan support and a vote of 43-18. The state Assembly voted 104-43 in favor of the legislation Tuesday afternoon and Cuomo signed the toughest gun control law in the nation shortly after 5 p.m.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) dedicated two parts of the legislation to southeast Queens mothers who lost their sons to gun violence.

“[In] many of our urban centers — Syracuse, Rochester, Albany and particular New York City — we’ve had a rash of illegal gun activities that have taken the lives of a number of young people throughout this city,” Smith said as the Senate voted 43-18 in favor of the sweeping reforms. “Many of you are familiar with them.”

The senator dedicated two pieces of the legislation that increase the penalties for gun possession charges to Donna Hood, whose 13-year-old son Kevin Miller was killed by a stray bullet in 2009, and Shenee Johnson, whose son Kendrick Morrow was fatally shot at a party in 2010.

The legislation also extended Kendra’s Law, which was set to expire in 2015, which grants the courts the authority to involuntarily commit patients with a history of mental illness who fail to undergo psychiatric treatments.

Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) said the new act was important in light of the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month and the pushing of a subway rider onto the tracks at the 40th Street No. 7 train station in Sunnyside.

“In light of the tragic murders in Newtown, I was proud to vote in favor of common sense legislation that strengthens existing gun control laws, increases penalties for the illegal use of firearms and ensures that the mentally ill do not have access to guns,” he said. “By strengthening Kendra’s Law, we will make certain that the dangerously mentally ill are not released into our communities to commit heinous crimes, such as the recent subway pushing tragedy.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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