ROCHESTER, NY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo ceremoniously signed New York's new, stricter gun regulations into law shortly after noon Wednesday at Rochester's City Hall.
"This law is going to make this state a safer state," Cuomo said.
The laws, passed by the state Legislature Monday and Tuesday, will expand background checks, limit magazine capacities further and ban semi-automatic rifles.
"It doesn't make any sense," said Bob Meyer, a veteran and licensed gun owner, who stood outside City Hall waiving both an American and a Gadsden (Don't Tread On Me) flag. "Does he think the criminals are going to obey that law? Does he think criminals are gonna obey any of these laws?"
New York has gotten national attention for these laws, said to be the strictest in the country and the first passed since children were gunned down in Newtown, Conn., and firefighters were shot in the Rochester suburb of Webster.
Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards said that given the tragedy that occurred in Webster on Christmas Eve, "it's a bittersweet honor having the governor and lieutenant governor here today for a ceremonial signing of the New York SAFE Act. I support this act." Cuomo initially signed the bill Tuesday evening and it was effective immediately.
The news came after a month of negotiations in which Cuomo applied increasing pressure -- both publicly and privately -- on legislative leaders to reach an agreement. "I am proud to be a New Yorker today. I am proud to be part of this government," Cuomo said shortly before signing the bill Tuesday night. "Not just because New York has the first bill, but because New York has the best bill."
The Democrat-dominated Assembly passed the bill Tuesday afternoon by a 104-43 vote. The state Senate, controlled by a coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, approved the bill after 11 p.m. Monday, less than three hours after Cuomo formally proposed it.
Cuomo, who often touts the transparency of his administration, used his executive powers to get the bill passed as a "Message of Necessity", thereby skirting the constitutionally required three day transparency period before bills can be voted on in New York. become law.
The Message of Necessity is a constitutional provision, granted only to the Governor. Cuomo used it four times times last year, on legislation regarding redistricting, to enact the new Tier Six pension plan, to expand the DNA data base to include those convicted of misdemeanors, and to establish controversial new teacher evaluations.
"If his government is so transparent on the up and up, why are they going about it like this?" wondered David Luther, another of the handful of demonstrators gathered outside City Hall.
Cuomo dismissed those who criticized the fast tracking of the law, which opponents say left them no time to marshall any lobbying efforts against.
"The role of Government should be to act and to get things done...there is nothing in this bill that hasn't been discussed for years and years and years," Cuomo told WGRZ-TV. "Anyone who says there's been no discussion of gun control has been living on a different planet for decades," Cuomo said.
When it was pointed out to the Governor that the contents of the bill were not released publicly prior to the vote, he said, "How many more "Websters" have to happen before government acts, how many more Newtown Connecticuts have to happen before government acts? In my opinion enough innocent people have lost their lives, something has to be done and someone has to speak up for them also."
Gun dealers in Western New York were busy early this week. While customers snatched up what they could, store owners worried about their remaining inventory. Many guns left on the shelves won't be sellable because the capacity is more than seven.
Before Tuesday, New York law allowed for 10-round magazines for weapons. Some guns also will be newly classified as assault weapons, also illegal.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Chief Photojournalist Andy DeSantis. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2
This story includes reporting from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle