ALBANY -- New York political leaders Monday night began approving a broad package of gun-control legislation that would expand the state's ban on assault weapons, keep guns away from the mentally ill and increase gun-related penalties.
The State Senate passed the package of bills, 43-18, at around 11:20 p.m. The Assembly, citing the hour, postponed a vote until 10 a.m. Tuesday. But there should be little suspense -- passage by the overwhelmingly Democratic chamber is all but assured.
The proposals include creating a new, statewide gun registry that would be off-limits to public disclosure. It would mandate all gun sales be made through licensed dealers, require background checks of ammunition buyers and would make New York the first state to check ammunition purchases in "real time." New York also would be the first to limit gun magazine to seven rounds; the current state limit is 10.
If the package is approved, it would make New York the first state to enact gun-control legislation since the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., last month.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he would be "proud" if the state earned that distinction.
"I believe it's the most comprehensive package in the nation," Cuomo said at a late-night news conference. He said gun violence is a "a scourge on society," noting the slaying of two firefighters on Christmas Eve in a Rochester suburb.
The ban on assault weapons would take effect immediately -- to prevent a run on gun stores, the governor said.
"If you have an assault weapon, nobody is going to take it away from you," Skelos said. "Nobody is going to take away your 10-round clips. You're just going to have seven rounds in it. So, I think, on balance, the Second Amendment is protected, but also there are incredibly enhanced criminal penalties."
Some Republicans questioned the rush to act and Cuomo's political motivations. "I don't think any lives will be saved today," said Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson). "The only life that may have been helped is the political life of Andrew Cuomo," who, he noted, has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for 2016.
Earlier Monday, workers from the Remington Arms factory in the Mohawk Valley -- which manufactures the Bushmaster AR 15, the gun used in Newtown -- protested, saying the new laws would imperil their jobs. Also, the head of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association visited Republican offices.
But that didn't stop the legislative push. Some Republicans said they were successful in getting elements they considered essential for support.
"Based on what I've seen, I'm inclined to vote for it," said Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), who had warned that a deal excluding tougher criminal penalties would have little practical impact.
Previously, two characteristics were needed 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 definition.
"New York has had a ban on assault weapons," said Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). "Manufacturers had gotten around it, so we're closing the loopholes." He said Republicans also fought some handgun proposals "we didn't think were necessary" for inclusion.
Numerous legislators said the final sticking point was improving school security.
"One of the pieces that I felt was very important was that school districts would get reimbursement for security equipment that they place in schools, such as cameras or other security measures," said Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick). "I feel that's a crucial part that's important to be resolved."
NYS GUN LEGISLATION
Some of the provisions included in the gun-legislation package being discussed by the NYS Legislature:
Tighten the assault-weapons ban to reduce the chances of guns being sold without certain aspects to skirt around the prohibition.
Reduce the maximum magazine capacity to seven rounds from 10.
Mandate that all firearms be registered with the state, including those that previously weren't subject to a post-1994 ban on assault weapons.
Provide that a new state weapons database isn't subject to disclosure under Freedom of Information Law.
Mandate that all private gun sales must go through licensed dealers.
Require all gun owners to recertify permits every five years instead of allowing county-by-county determinations.
Strengthen penalties for "straw" buyers of firearms, possession of an illegal gun, possession of a gun during a drug sale or felony, possession of gun on school grounds.
Extend Kendra's Law, under which medical professionals can force some mental-health patients to take medications or receive treatment.
Direct mental-health professionals to report patients they deem a possible threat to themselves or others; patients who are reported must surrender any guns and permits.