What You Need to Know About New York's Gun Law

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New York has become the first state to dramatically stiffen its gun laws after last month's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

With Governor Andrew Cuomo's signature Tuesday, parts of the measure that sped through the Legislature in two days take effect immediately.

  • WNYC reporter Robert Lewis took a look at the 22,500-word bill. He says there are several controversial provisions. The Mental Health Association of New York State released a fairly critical statement saying that tying mental health to the gun control issue stigmatizes people with such illnesses. Also, the law allows gun licensees to opt out of having their names and addresses made public. A New York newspaper caused a stir last month when it published the names and addresses of all pistol permit holders in Rockland and Westchester county.

  • The co-author of the law, Bronx State Senator Jeffrey Klein, told WNYC that it will also require mental health professionals to report any patient they believe to be a threat to themselves and others: “We’re making New York a lot safer by leaving it up to mental health professionals on whether or not their client potentially poses a danger and whether or not that individual has a gun,” Klein said.

  • We also spoke with Bishop Willie Billips. He's known as the Gang Pastor for his work with the NYPD's Clergy Task Force, which provides support for victims of violent crime and often mediates between rival gangs.  He’s also done work mediating between rival gangs. He says he’s pleased the new law is taking a closer look at mental health issues. “That’s very, very important because these guns getting in the hands of people with different mental conditions as well as he number of bullets that are allowed to be in gun clips and things. We need to cut this off at the head and I think this a very good start,” Billips said.

  • But former New York Times reporter and editor and author of Living With Guns: A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment, Craig Whitney says gun control measures like the ones passed in Albany and like those set to be proposed by President Barack Obama are only part of the picture: “No gun control measure alone is going to rule out incidents like the shooting at Newtown or the routine gun violence we have in New York and other big cities,” Whitney said. “You need to deal with social issues, with the pathologies that produce gun violence.”

The new law also calls for background checks on ammunition, a ban on large magazines, stiffer penalties for gun crimes and background checks even on private sales, such as those at gun shows.