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N.Y. governor signs nation's first gun-control bill since Newtown

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Story highlights

  • NRA decries speed of bill
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs gun-control bill into law
  • Law limits ammunition magazines to seven bullets, down from 10
  • Measure includes a statewide gun registry, uniform licensing standard

Gov. Andrew Cuomo beefed up New York's gun-control laws on Tuesday by signing into law a new package of firearm and mental health regulations that mark the nation's first since last month's massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Cuomo, a self-described gun owner, said the December 14 tragedy spurred lawmakers to action and called it a "common sense" measure before enacting what are widely seen as America's toughest gun laws.

"You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and common sense," he said before inking the deal in Albany.

The laws fortify New York's existing assault weapons ban, limit the number of bullets allowed in magazines and strengthen rules that govern the mentally ill, which includes a requirement to report potentially harmful behavior.

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Both the GOP-controlled Senate and Democrat-dominated Assembly approved the measure by overwhelming margins just one week after Cuomo spelled out the proposals in his annual State of the State address.

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    The first-term Democratic governor had called for a tightening of the assault weapons ban, background checks for people who purchase guns privately and more restrictions on high-capacity magazines.

    But the new measures drew ire from the nation's largest gun lobby over the speed with which the bill was passed in the new legislative session.

    The National Rifle Association accused Cuomo and other state lawmakers of orchestrating "a secretive end-run around the legislative and democratic process."

    After two days of voting in the state Legislature, Cuomo signed the deal around 5 p.m. before telling reporters that speed had been essential so as not to create a rush on the gun market.

    "There has been all sorts of reports that even the contemplation of this law caused an increase in (gun) sales," he said. "That would have been the exact opposite of what we were trying to achieve."

    Related: Details of Obama's proposals

    The new laws include a statewide gun registry and a uniform licensing standard, altering the current system in which each county or municipality sets its own standard.

    Residents are now restricted to purchasing ammunition magazines that carry seven bullets, rather than 10.

    Related: NRA's shooting video prompts outrage

    It remains unclear what effect the measures will have on New York's already stringent approach to gun control.

    "The changes in New York are largely cosmetic," said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, who described existing regulations as "the toughest gun laws in the United States."

    "The one change that arguably will have the greatest impact is the amendment to Kendra's Law, which will permit closer monitoring of the mentally ill."

    That 1999 law grants New York judges the authority to require residents to undergo psychiatric treatment if they meet certain criteria.

    Related: Gun control support rises but divide remains over what to do

    The new measures will extend Kendra's Law through 2017, expand outpatient treatment from six months to a year and require reviews before such treatment is allowed to expire.

    New York's mental health professionals will be governed by a new and controversial set of rules that require them to report their patients to the state should those patients exhibit behavior suggesting that they could be harmful to themselves or others.

    "We're opening up an unprecedented window into what goes on in the therapy room," said Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

    "It would effect a major change in the usual presumptions of confidentiality."

    The bill creates mandatory life sentences for anyone who murders certain first responders, a provision that comes after two firefighters were killed in an ambush as they battled a blaze in upstate New York.

    The vote coincides with a series of recommendations put together by Vice President Joe Biden meant to address the nation's gun violence.

    Lawmakers in at least 10 other states are reviewing some form of new gun regulations in the new year.

      Gun control debate

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    • Six months after a gunman burst into a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school and slaughtered 20 children and killed six others, promises of stricter national gun control laws remain largely unfulfilled.
    • An undated photo of murder suspect Elliot Rodger is seen at a press conference by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff in Goleta, California May 24, 2014. Rodger, 22, went on a rampage in Isla Vista near the University of California at Santa Barbara campus, stabbed three people to death at his apartment before shooting to death three more in a terrorizing crime spree through the neighborhood. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

      Next time there's a mass shooting, don't jump to blame the National Rifle Association and lax gun laws. Look first at the shooter and the mental health services he did or didn't get, and the commitment laws in the state where the shooting took place.
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      The sign at the door of the Colt factory displays a gun with a slash through it: "No loaded or unauthorized firearms beyond this point." Understandable for workers at a plant, but also a bit ironic, considering one of the largest arsenals in America lies just beyond.
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    •  	US President Barack Obama is accompanied by former lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords (L), vice president Joe Biden (R) and family members of Newtown school shooting victims as he speaks on gun control at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 17, 2013. Obama on Wednesday slammed what he called a 'minority' in the US Senate for blocking legislation that would have expanded background checks on those seeking to buy guns. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

      The Senate defeated a compromise plan to expand background checks on firearms sales as well as a proposal to ban some semi-automatic weapons modeled after military assault weapons.
    • Jessica Ghawi

      As Congress grapples with major gun control legislation proposals, brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers and children write about the people they loved and lost to gun violence and how it changed their lives.
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    • Still stinging from the shooting deaths at Sandy Hook, Connecticut lawmakers approved what advocacy groups call the strongest and most comprehensive gun legislation in the nation.
    • It took fewer than five minutes for Adam Lanza to squeeze off 154 rounds, upending life in Newtown, Connecticut, and triggering a renewed national debate over gun control.
    • A former drug addict turned anti-violence crusader, and a man who lost his father in a temple shooting. These are just two of many in the conversation.