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Tougher NY law now restricts private gun sales

ALBANY — New York’s new gun control law now requires federal background checks for private firearms sales.

The provision meant to close the so-called “private sales loophole” takes effect Saturday, along with others that set tougher penalties for gun crimes and require mental health professionals to report the names of patients they consider likely to seriously hurt themselves or others. Other provisions of the new law have different effective dates.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called gun crimes “a scourge on society” and pushed through some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on Jan. 15, one month after the Newtown, Conn., shooting that took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators. While polls have shown a majority of New Yorkers favor the law, thousands have rallied in opposition, saying it infringes on their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Private sales will now require checks by a licensed gun dealer, who can charge up to $10 and issue a form showing the prospective buyer passed. Dealers already must use the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System before they sell guns. But they haven’t had to do that for private sellers. Sales or transfers among immediate family members remain exempt.

Federal law prohibits gun sales to those convicted of various crimes, including domestic abuse, and to people judged mentally defective, subject to orders of protection, illegal immigrants, or fugitives with outstanding warrants.

Another state provision, also effective Saturday, requires judges to determine whether to suspend or revoke a state pistol permit when they issue an order of protection or consider any violation of such an order. Previously, they were empowered by law to do that but not required.

The toughest part of the new statute — banning in-state sales of guns newly classified as “assault weapons” — immediately took effect Jan. 15. The new classification related to a single military-style feature, like a pistol grip on semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines. It requires owners to register an estimated 1 million previously legal guns by April 15, 2014.

Its assault weapons’ definition also applies to some shotguns and handguns. Those include shotguns that are semi-automatic and have another feature, such as a folding or thumbhole stock, a fixed magazine capacity over seven rounds, a second handgrip held by the non-shooting hand or the ability to accept a detachable magazine.

Banned pistols are listed as semi-automatics with a military-style feature, such as a telescoping stock, second handgrip, capacity to accept a magazine outside the pistol grip, a threaded barrel that can take a flash suppressor or silencer or a second handgrip.

State police say the 64-year-old man who killed four people and wounded two others this week in central New York at a barbershop in Mohawk and service station in Herkimer used a conventional shotgun, not one restricted under the new law.

The new reporting of patients considered likely to hurt someone is supposed to go to county mental health officials for review and then, if confirmed, to state authorities to determine whether that person has a license or firearm and should relinquish it.

The federal Department of Veterans Affairs said this week its mental health professionals won’t comply, that federal laws safeguarding the confidentiality of veterans’ treatment records take precedence.

Another provision effective Saturday establishes a felony for buying or disposing of a rifle, pistol or shotgun on behalf of someone prohibited from having one because of a conviction or disability. The law also requires locked storage of guns if you live with someone prohibited from them because of a crime, commitment to a mental institution or court protection order.