NPR

New York Quickly Passes Gun Control Measure

The state legislature in New York has voted to approve a sweeping gun control measure. It bans assault weapons and makes it harder for seriously mentally ill people to legally obtain firearms.

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today, President Obama is expected to talk about ways to cut back on gun violence. Yesterday was New York's turn. At the urging of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the legislature voted to approve a variety of gun control measures. In the wake of the shooting in Connecticut last month, New York banned the sale of assault rifles, as well as clips that carry more than seven rounds of ammunition.

Here's North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Tuesday afternoon, while New York State Assembly was still debating the gun control measure, Stetsen Hundgen was working downtown in Tarrytown in the Hudson River Valley, where he manages rental properties. He wasn't sure exactly what the new law restricts or what it allows, but he said he was skeptical.

STETSEN HUNDGEN: I think it's more symbolic than anything. I'm not really convinced that anything will change.

MANN: I heard this a lot through the day. People I talked to said the mass shootings in Newtown and other places around the country were disturbing. But some were also concerned that this law was pushed through fast, with little time for public review.

When I told Casey Weeks, an 18-year-old student from Greenville, New York, that the law was a done deal, he shook his head and said it would put restrictions on all the wrong people.

CASEY WEEKS: I think it's a little ridiculous. I mean honestly these criminals that get a hold of these guns get a hold of them illegally anyway. So it doesn't really matter if they, you know, pass laws like that.

MANN: Weeks and Hundgen both said they think the new rules violate New Yorker's right to bear arms, and weaken the Second Amendment. This law doesn't ban all guns, but it makes it illegal to buy or sell assault rifles and big military-style clips. It requires mental health professionals in New York to notify authorities if there's risk that a patient might use a firearm in a crime. The penalties for gun crimes will also increase and gun owners are now required to notify authorities if their pistols or rifles are stolen.

Tom Green from Latham, New York, was thrilled by those changes. He said he doesn't think they step on anyone's civil liberties.

TOM GREEN: The availability of automatic weapons and large capacity magazines, I find to be unnecessary for any useful sport shooting or self-protection. And it seems to me that they're just tools for destruction.

MANN: I met Green at a rest stop on the New York Thruway, about the time that Governor Cuomo was signing the new law.

A few minutes later, Elizabeth Sooter, a former college professor from Long Island came over. She said there was a report on the TV inside about another shooting.

ELIZABETH SOOTER: I don't know if you just heard but I just saw - and I think that there's another shooting at a college in St. Louis. I mean it's dangerous to be a teacher. You risk your life. Do we need that many guns?

MANN: News stories like that one and the shooting in Newtown have clearly reshaped the debate here in New York. Some people yesterday said efforts to curb gun violence were long overdue.

Jamie Johns lives in Brownsville, a high crime neighborhood in New York City that's been plagued by shootings for years.

JAMIE JOHNS: Out here in East New York, babies are getting shot every other week, every day, and nothing had took place, nothing happened. Nobody came to the rescue. It's bad that it took that shooting in order for the government to even think about doing something.

MANN: Johns was eating at the East Market Diner. George Papadopoulos runs the place. He said yesterday that he agrees gun violence has to be reduced somehow.

GEORGE PAPADOPOLOUS: It's just ridiculous. This is New York City on 2013, not the Wild West 1879. You know what I mean?

MANN: It's unclear whether other states will follow New York's lead. New gun control measures area being debated from Connecticut to California.

For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann.

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