The governor of New York state, Andrew Cuomo, on Tuesday signed into law one of America’s toughest gun control measures, the first to be enacted since the mass shooting last month at an elementary school in neighbouring Connecticut.
The bill passed the Democratic-led state assembly on Tuesday afternoon, a day after clearing the Republican-majority state senate. It expands the state’s ban on assault weapons and has new measures to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people.
“People who are mentally ill should not have access to guns. That’s common sense,” Cuomo said. “That’s probably the hallmark of this bill.”
The bill also limits ammunition magazines to seven rounds. Cuomo described higher-capacity magazines as “nonsensical to a civil society.”
“No one hunts with an assault rifle,” he said. “No one needs ten bullets to kill a deer. End the madness.”
Cuomo pressed for passage of the bill after a gunman killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, just over one month ago.
The measure also mandates a life sentence without parole for anyone who murders a police officer or firefighter. Just two weeks after the massacre in Connecticut, an arsonist gunman ambushed and killed two firefighters responding to a fire he had set near Rochester.
Gun rights advocates quickly lashed out at Cuomo. The National Rifle Association said it was “outraged at the draconian gun control bill.”
“These gun control schemes have failed in the past and will have no impact on public safety and crime,” the group said in a statement.
Obama to unveil proposal Wednesday
New York’s state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, also announced that the state’s $150bn public pension fund will stop buying shares of publicly-traded firearms manufacturers.
The fund holds about $2.2m worth of shares in Sturm Ruger, a major gun company. Asked whether it would sell those holdings, a DiNapoli spokesman said that decision was “further down the line.”
California’s teachers’ pension fund has already pledged to sell its investments in companies which manufacture guns and ammunition illegal in the state.
US president Barack Obama is scheduled to propose new national gun control measures on Wednesday.
The White House said Obama will appear with children who wrote letters to him after the shooting, a clear appeal to public opinion. He has acknowledged it will be difficult to push tougher measures – including a ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity magazines – through Congress.
Obama can use his executive powers to make some changes without the need for congressional approval. A poll released on Tuesday found that a majority of Americans support the kinds of measures found in the New York bill.
The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. Around 32,000 Americans were killed by firearms last year.