"I am proud to be a New Yorker today," Cuomo said shortly before signing the law at a State Capitol news conference. "Not just because New York has the first bill, but because New York has the best bill."
His action came shortly after the Democratic-led Assembly approved the gun bill, 104-43, Tuesday afternoon, after an intense, five-hour debate. The politically divided Senate passed the measure Monday night, 43-18.
The measures would expand the state's ban on assault weapons, keep guns away from the mentally ill and increase gun-related penalties.
The proposals also include creating a new, statewide registry for assault weapons and pistols that would be off-limits to public disclosure. It would mandate that all gun sales be made through licensed dealers, require background checks of ammunition buyers, and make New York the first state to check ammunition purchases in "real time." New York also would be the first to limit gun magazines to seven rounds; the current state limit is 10.
Cuomo said New York now has the "toughest" gun laws in the nation. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a San Francisco-based watchdog group, said while New York has the "most comprehensive" gun law and is now tougher on ammunition purchases, it only matches California and New Jersey on assault-weapons bans and falls short of other states on microstamping bullets and limiting gun ownership.
The National Rifle Association issued a statement attacking Cuomo, saying he "orchestrated a secretive end-run around the legislative and democratic process and passed sweeping anti-gun measures with no committee hearings and no public input" and chalking it up to the governor's "political aspirations."
But at the signing, the governor said, "You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and reason and common sense." The room was packed with law-enforcement personnel, anti-gun-violence activists and Democrats. No Republicans attended.
The ban on assault weapons takes effect immediately -- in the hopes of preventing a run on gun stores, the governor said.
"This is haphazard," said Assemb. Al Graf (R-Holbrook). "We're not supposed to be here to advance any one person's political agenda."
During the Assembly debate, Graf pointed out what he saw as several flaws in the bill as drafted -- for instance, he said it would limit the number of bullets a policeman's gun could hold. Democrats said the bill would be amended later, but Graf said it revealed problems with rushing. He also said Assembly Republicans had no opportunity to offer input.
"I'm voting no because of a lot of flaws in the bill, because of the way it was presented to us and because of the way they cut us out of the discussion," Graf said.
Assemb. Marc Butler (R-Newport) said the legislation would threaten up to 300 jobs at Remington Arms -- manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15, the gun used in Newtown -- in the Mohawk Valley.
Assemb. Michelle Schimel (D-Great Neck) said "gun deaths in New York" will decrease "because of the bold action we will take today."The assault-weapons ban was among the centerpieces of the legislation.
Previously, a gun had to include two characteristics to meet the definition of an assault weapon, centering on types of grip, ammunition magazines and flash suppressors, among others. Only one characteristic would be needed to meet the new legal definition.
With Joan Gralla