Ever since the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, we've heard a lot of calls in America for tougher gun control.
Well now, New York has become the first state to act - as lawmakers have agreed to pass the toughest gun control law in the U.S.
"This is a scourge on society," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last night after state politicians reached a deal. "At what point do you say, 'No more innocent loss of life."
The state Senate - which is controlled by a coalition of Republicans and five breakaway Democrats - approved the legislation by a vote of 43-18.
The law calls for a tougher assault weapons ban. It will ban semi-automatic guns and rifles with detachable magazines and one military-style feature.
It will also ban semi-automatic shotguns with one military-style feature. Anyone in New York who already owns such guns can keep them. But they have to register them with the state.
The legislation also looks to keep mentally ill people from getting hold of a gun. Here's how.
If a doctor or therapist believes a patient could harm themselves or others, or talks about using a gun illegally, they have to report it to local mental health officials.
The police would then have the right to go and see that patient and take away any weapon they might own.
If a doctor or therapist doesn't report such a patient, he/she would not be punished if they acted "in good faith."
"People who have mental health issues should not have guns," Cuomo told reporters. "They could hurt themselves, they could hurt other people."
However, that part of the law is controversial.
First, when it comes to treatment for mental health, there is a presumption of confidentiality. That significantly changes under this new measure.
Also, as one doctor told the New York Times, "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."
The legislation includes a number of other measures including...
- A ban on any gun magazine that can hold over 7 rounds of ammunition; the current limit is 10 rounds.
- Background checks for anyone buying ammunition.
- Automated alerts to police regarding anyone who buys a lot of guns or ammunition.
- Tougher penalties for multiple crimes committed with guns.
- Background checks for most private gun sales.
- A ban on the sale of assault weapons on the Internet.
- Stolen guns must be reported within 24 hours.
- The creation of a statewide gun-registry.
Cuomo pushed lawmakers to come up with legislation quickly, so people couldn't run out and buy all sorts of guns before the law changes.
"We don't need another tragedy to point out the problems in the system," Cuomo said. "Enough people have lost their lives. Let's act."
It's estimated there are about one million assault rifles in New York state.
"This is not about taking anyone's rights away," said Jeffrey Klein, a Democrat leader in the state Senate. "It's about a safe society... today we are setting the mark for the rest of the county to do what's right."
"This is going to go after those who are bringing illegal guns into the state, who are slaughtering people in New York City," Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos said.
"This is going to put people in jail and keep people in jail who shouldn't be out on the street in the first place."
Not everyone agrees. Republican state Senator Greg Ball had this to say.
"We haven't saved any lives tonight, except one: the political life of a governor who wants to be president," said Ball, referring to Cuomo as a possible candidate for president in 2016.
"We have taken an entire category of firearms that are currently legal that are in the homes of law-abiding, tax paying citizens... We are now turning those law-abiding citizens into criminals," he said.
Cuomo negotiated the legislation privately with state Senate leaders over the past several weeks.
But many rank-and-file Senators had only a few minutes to read it before voting.
Republican Brian M. Kolb didn't like that saying, "I don't think we should be rushing things just for the sake of headlines."
Cuomo defended the move saying, "If there is an issue that fits the definition of necessity, I believe it's gun violence."
Usually, there are three days from the time new legislation is introduced to when politicians vote on it. But in this case, Cuomo waived the normal protocol.
The legislation is expected to formally pass into law easily.