New York governor seeks tighter assault weapons ban

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, will outline his proposal in his State of the State address.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, will outline his proposal in his State of the State address.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, pushing New York to become the first state to enact major new gun laws in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., plans on Wednesday to propose one of the country’s most restrictive bans on assault weapons.

New York is one of seven states that already ban at least some assault weapons. But Cuomo has described the existing law as having ‘‘more holes than Swiss cheese,’’ and he wants to broaden the number of guns and magazines covered by the law while also making it harder for gunmakers to tweak their products to get around the ban.

Cuomo, a Democrat, will outline his proposal in his State of the State address, but even before he speaks, he has incited anxiety among gun owners by acknowledging in a radio interview that ‘‘confiscation could be an option’’ for assault weapons owned by New Yorkers.


Since that interview, Cuomo has not mentioned the idea, and his aides have acknowledged that it would be impractical, but gun rights groups have seized on the comment, even posting a petition on the website of the White House declaring, ‘‘We do not live in Nazi Germany’’ and asking the Obama administration to block any effort at confiscation by Cuomo.

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Since the shootings in Newtown, Cuomo has attempted to negotiate an agreement on gun laws with legislative leaders in Albany — he even contemplated calling them back into special session last month — and the talks continued into the night Tuesday, as the governor sought to reach an agreement before his speech.

According to people briefed on the talks, the governor is considering not only rewriting the state’s assault weapons ban, but also proposing more expansive use of mental health records in background checks of gun buyers, lower limits on the capacity of magazines legally sold in New York, and a new requirement that gun permits be subject to periodic renewal.

New York already has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, and the debate over new restrictions here reflects a significant change in the national conversation over guns, as states and the federal government grapple with whether and how to limit the possession of weapons that have been used in multiple mass killings in recent months and years.

Cuomo, a shotgun owner, has long spoken in favor of tougher gun control but has not used his political muscle to make the issue a priority. Now, citing the recent tragedy, he is seeking to strike a deal that could be used as a model in other statehouses.


The state’s District Attorneys Association sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders on Tuesday calling for, among other things, the elimination of a clause that allows some high-capacity magazines. And nearly 100 lawmakers have endorsed a set of proposals that includes limiting handgun purchases to one per month, requiring a new form of ballistics identification, and putting in place universal background checks.

But Cuomo faces a complicated political landscape in Albany.

The Assembly is controlled by Democrats eager for more gun restrictions, while the Senate this year is to be controlled by an unusual coalition of Republicans, who have largely resisted new gun laws, and dissident Democrats, who support more gun control.