UK & World News
New York Enacts Nation's Toughest Gun Controls
The New York state legislature has passed the toughest gun control law in the US and the first since the Newtown school shooting.
The bill calls for a tougher assault weapons ban and provisions to try to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who make threats.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who pushed hard for the legislation, signed the bill within an hour of it being passed by the state assembly.
"Common sense can win," said Gov Cuomo. "You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and with reason and with common sense."
Owners of an estimated one million previously legal semi-automatic rifles, like the Bushmaster model that was used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary, will be able to keep their weapons, but will have a year to register them with police.
"When there's a pile-up of events, when the federal government does not do it, the state of New York has to lead the way," said state Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill.
In addition to outlawing a broader array of military-style weapons, the measure restricts ammunition magazines to hold seven rounds, down from the current 10.
It also creates a more comprehensive database of people barred from owning guns and makes New York the first state to require background checks on people buying ammunition.
The system will also help flag up customers who buy large amounts of ammo.
In another provision, therapists, doctors and other mental health professionals will be required to tell state authorities if a patient threatens to use a gun illegally. The patient's weapon could then be taken away.
The National Rifle Association said: "These gun control schemes have failed in the past and will have no impact on public safety and crime.
"While lawmakers could have taken a step toward strengthening mental health reporting and focusing on criminals, they opted for trampling the rights of law-abiding gun owners in New York, and they did it under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night."
President Barack Obama will unveil his own proposals in response to the Newtown tragedy later today.
The president favours sweeping gun legislation, including a ban on assault weapons. But because of powerful opposition from the gun lobby, he is said to be weighing 19 steps he could take through executive action alone.
Those could include ordering stricter action against people who lie on gun-sale background checks, seeking to ensure more complete records in the federal database and striking limits on federal research into gun use.
New York's law passed the state Senate, which is run by a Republican-dominated coalition, by 43-18 on Monday night. The Democrat-controlled Assembly approved it 104-43 on Tuesday afternoon.
Republicans complained the measure had been rammed through the legislature and said it infringes on the second amendment right to bear arms.
"A lot of people say 'Why do you need these guns?'," said Assemblyman James Tedisco, a Schenectady Republican.
"It's part of the freedoms and liberties we have. ... It's for our public safety. It's to protect us from our own government."
He said the bill was dangerous because it would give people a "false sense of well-being".
"You are using innocent children killed by a madman for your own political agenda. You are actually making people less safe," Mr Tedisco said.
Tom King, the president of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, questioned whether other states or the federal government would follow New York's lead, and said he expects the law to be challenged in court.