ALBANY, N.Y. -- Jumping out ahead of Washington, New York state enacted the nation's toughest gun restrictions Tuesday and the first since the Connecticut school massacre, including an expanded assault-weapon ban and background checks for buying ammunition.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law less than an hour after it won final legislative passage, with supporters hailing it as a model for the nation and gun-rights activists condemning it as a knee-jerk piece of legislation that won't make anyone safer and is too extreme to win support in the rest of the country.
"Common sense can win," Mr. Cuomo said. "You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and with reason and with common sense."
Owners of what is estimated to be 1 million previously legal semiautomatic rifles, such as the Bushmaster model used to kill 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., a month ago, can keep their weapons but will have a year to register them with police. The sale of any more such weapons is prohibited.
Besides outlawing a broader array of military-style weapons, the measure restricts ammunition magazines to seven rounds, from the current 10, creates a more comprehensive database of those barred from owning guns and makes New York the first state to require background checks to buy bullets. The system also will help flag those 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 in a statement: "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."
New York's law passed the state Senate, which is run by a Republican-dominated coalition, 43-18 Monday night. The Democrat-controlled Assembly approved it 104-43 Tuesday afternoon. Republicans complained that the measure was rammed through the Legislature and infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
"A lot of people say, 'Why do you need these guns?' " said Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco of Schenectady. "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."
Previously, New York state's assault weapons law banned semiautomatics that have detachable magazines and at least two military-type features, such as a pistol grip, folding stock, muzzle flash suppressor or bayonet mount. The new law outlaws weapons with just one of those features.
It requires background checks for even private gun sales, except for immediate family. In addition, it says handgun owners must renew their licenses every five years, and increases prison terms for using guns in various crimes or taking them onto school grounds.
In a concession to the pro-gun side, local authorities will be allowed to withhold registered gun owners' identities, an issue because a suburban New York City newspaper just published owners' names and addresses in its readership area.