Editorial: NY gun laws not perfect, but the right step

New York's Assembly passed the toughest gun control

New York's Assembly passed the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, calling for a tougher assault weapons ban and provisions to try to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who make threats. The measure passed, 104-43. (Jan. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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For the most part, the gun laws passed by the New York State Legislature this week make sense.

They're not too intrusive. They don't make it too difficult for law-abiding residents who want guns for sport or protection to buy and keep them. And they could make it harder for mentally ill people and criminals to get and keep guns, and harder on those who commit crimes with firearms.

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But the new rules aren't perfect, and a couple seem to overstep rational boundaries. Excluding a new state database of gun permits from disclosure under the state Freedom of Information Law, and allowing gun owners to exempt themselves from being reported as part of county databases, is wrong. The recent publication of names and addresses of gun owners by at least two New York media outlets weren't great journalism. They provided little context. But gun permit information should be public. If a candidate for Congress or the leader of your child's scout troop has 200 guns, you should have a right to know.

Also silly is the section of the law that reduces the number of bullets you can load into a firearm magazine from 10 to seven. The change is arbitrary -- why not nine, or five? -- and seems more political than logical.

The meat of the bill is good law: It tightens the state's assault weapons ban, and requires registration of all firearms, sales only through licensed dealers, real-time background checks of ammunition buyers, recertification of permits every five years, stronger penalties for gun crimes and expanded measures to keep guns out of the hands of people who are mentally ill.

Unfortunately, even these measures won't be truly effective unless they're adopted nationally. The majority of guns used in crimes in New York are bought in states with laxer laws. Passing laws like these in Washington, as President Barack Obama may attempt to do starting this week, could actually reduce gun violence in New York. It's that prospect, and not just passing legislation, that has to be the goal.


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