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New gun registration requirements take effect in New York state

April 15, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • In January, gun enthusiasts gathered for the annual New York State Arms Collectors Assn.'s Albany Gun Show.
In January, gun enthusiasts gathered for the annual New York State Arms… (Philip Kamrass / Associated…)

Even as Congress prepares to debate new gun legislation, New York’s tougher gun control provisions became effective on Monday, the latest example of how the issue has broadened into a battle on the state as well as federal level.

In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre -- which followed mass shootings last year in Colorado and Wisconsin -- many have called for greater control of gun violence. New York was the first to pass a tougher measure, but other states including Colorado, Connecticut and Maryland have also tightened their requirements.

In New York, a one-year registration period began Monday for owners of guns now listed as assault weapons. In addition, gun owners will generally be limited to seven rounds in any ammunition magazine. Since manufacturers don’t make seven-round magazines, an owner can have a 10-round magazine but cannot fill it up.

The New York affiliate of the National Rifle Assn. has pledged a court fight over the provisions, especially the ammunition capacity issue.

Also Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear a 2nd Amendment challenge to the New York law that strictly limits who can carry a gun in public. In effect, the high court’s decision means states and cities to continue to have the authority to regulate guns outside the home.

New York was the first state to move aggressively in the wake of the Newtown massacre last December, when Adam Lanza invaded the Sandy Hook Elementary School firing 154 rounds in less than five minutes from a semiautomatic Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle. Twenty children and six educators died in the assault.

On Jan. 15, about a month after Newtown, New York passed its statute, effective immediately, banning in-state sales of guns newly classified as assault weapons. The original bill also limited magazine capacity, but this was amended later, allowing the large magazines but prohibiting loading them with more than seven rounds at a time.

The new registration requirement means that an estimated 1 million guns previously not classified as assault weapons must be registered by April 15, 2014. The new definition would also apply to some shotguns and handguns depending on whether they are semiautomatics or have other features such as a second hand grip.

The New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn., the local NRA affiliate, argues that the New York law violates the 2nd Amendment and has pledged a court fight.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who is considered a potential candidate for president in 2016, has repeatedly defended the law against gun-rights supporters who say the state has exceeded its regulatory authority.

“Yes, they are against it, but they are the extremists and the extremists shouldn't win, especially on this issue when it is so important to the majority,” Cuomo said in a radio interview last Wednesday. “In politics, we have to be willing to take on the extremists, otherwise you will see paralysis.”

In Maryland, gun buyers will have to be fingerprinted and licensed. In Connecticut, those who own high-capacity magazines will have to register with the state. And in Colorado, officials face a boycott from hunters angry over new legislation that expands background checks and limits the size of ammunition magazines.

With some states moving aggressively to limit guns, others have been expanding gun rights. And the issue has crossed traditional political boundaries.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has collaborated with Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Penn.) on a compromise gun-control measure that they hope will draw support from both sides of the aisle. The measure would expand background checks, but falls short of the White House’s call for universal background checks.

Other Obama proposals such as renewing a ban on assault weapons and limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines are not in the bill expected to be debated by the Senate, though there is always a possibility of amendments being proposed.

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