Gun control bill signed into New York State law

After a five-hour debate, the Democratic-led New York State Assembly passed a new gun control bill Tuesday afternoon that includes stricter definitions of banned "assault weapons" and new reporting requirements for mental health professionals. In passing the bill, the Assembly joined the Republican-led Senate, which passed the bill late Monday night without debate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo acted immediately to sign the bill, which has been dubbed the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, and is being discussed widely on Twitter under the hashtag #nysafe.

Since its hasty passage in the Senate on Monday -- after closed-door negotiations between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate leaders -- New York State's new gun law has spurred immediate and passionate reactions from New Yorkers of all stripes.

Some legislators and a good-government group, Citizens Union, are crying foul at the passage of the law without any meaningful debate in the Senate. Some senators had only 20 minutes to read the bill before voting, an Associated Press story reports.

The bill's new requirements for mental healthcare providers, who must report patients to law enforcement if they believe they may harm themselves or others, is troubling to some who think the measure will dissuade people from getting psychiatric care. A prominent expert on ethics in psychiatry weighed in on the subject for the New York Times:

...such a requirement “represents a major change in the presumption of confidentiality that has been inherent in mental health treatment,” said Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, the director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, who said the Legislature should hold hearings on possible consequences of the proposal.

“The prospect of being reported to the local authorities, even if they do not have weapons, may be enough to discourage patients with suicidal or homicidal thoughts from seeking treatment or from being honest about their impulses,” he said.

The editorial page of the New York Times, which has been generally supportive of expanding gun control legislation, gave the bill a mixed review, calling it "a snarl of good ideas, strange ideas and ideas that seem quite bad," and urging federal lawmakers not to use the bill as a model for nationwide gun-control legislation. Editorial-page editor Andrew Rosenthal, who also worries that the bill may run afoul of Constitutional search-and-seizure law, writes of its potentially chilling effect on public watchdog efforts:

The bill also revokes automatic public access to gun permit records – a wild over-reaction to a Westchester newspaper’s decision to publish the names of all local holders of gun permits. Publishing those names seemed to have no legitimate journalistic purpose, but closing off public records is not the right response.

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports that Cuomo defended the bill's hasty passage as necessary to prevent a rush on gun sales ahead of the bill's passage. But if one Albany-area gun store was any indication, the looming legislation sparked a massive run on local gun sales anyway:

And many believed this was their last opportunity to make purchases before the law took effect. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law just after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"My girlfriend works for the state. She said, 'You should get down here,'" said Ben Levine, a 30-year-old Army veteran from Glenmont. "People are very nervous."

Levine bought a Ruger rifle, a tactical shotgun and 50 12-gauge rounds. He laid out roughly $3,000.

"It was painful to hand over stacks of hundreds," he said. As for the rifle, he said it's his second. "It's not something that I need. But with the law I felt I should have an extra."

The Times-Union's Capital Confidential blog has come up with a clever spin on the task of sorting through a deluge of press releases either praising or blaming the bill from lawmakers, nonprofit groups, and others: The NY SAFE gun bill React-O-Mat. Check back often to see the latest responses.