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New York passes tough gun laws: 'draconian' or trailblazing? (+video)

New York State's new gun laws are being called perhaps the toughest in the nation, regulating gun sales, ammunition sales, assault weapons, and more. The NRA vows legal action.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signs the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act at the Capitol in Albany on Tuesday.

Hans Pennink/Reuters

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One month after the tragic shootings of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Conn., the state of New York has passed the most comprehensive gun legislation in the nation and also one of the toughest.

It clamps down on the sale of ammunition and the sale of guns, requiring background checks on even the private sale of guns – except to family members. The law also attempts to keep the mentally ill from obtaining guns. It was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) late Tuesday afternoon.

In his annual State of the State address last week, Governor Cuomo promised to "enact the toughest assault-weapon ban in the nation, period."

The New York law will put the state on par with California, which had the toughest gun laws as far as assault weapons are concerned. New York used to require a two feature test to call a gun an assault weapon. Now, it will only require a single feature – such as a flash suppressor on the muzzle or a detachable magazine – to be considered an assault weapon.

However, gun-control advocates say what makes the new legislation the toughest is the state’s new restrictions on ammunition. New York will define a large capacity magazine as any that holds more than seven rounds, down from 10. Anyone owning a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds will be required to sell it out-of-state within a year.

In addition, gun sellers will be required to do a background check before selling ammunition, and residents will be required to buy ammunition through a licensed dealer. If a buyer makes a large purchase of ammo, the dealer is required to alert law enforcement officials.

“No other state is doing what New York is doing to regulate ammunition,” says Laura Cutilletta, a senior staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) said it is “outraged at the draconian gun control bill” that was rushed through Albany and it said it would consider “all possible legal challenges in the near future.”

New York may be the first state to pass legislation since the Newtown violence, but other governors are also proposing new laws as well.

Among the proposals, in Delaware, Gov. Jack Markell (D) is proposing to ban all assault weapons, ban high-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds, and require background checks for all purchases. Virginia and New Jersey are proposing mental-health screening and home inspections prior to a gun purchase. And California and Connecticut have pending legislation regulating the sale of ammunition.

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