Governor Kathy Hochul signed a package of bills into law, including one that bans the sale of semiautomatics to people under 21.
In the wake of the tragic mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, and the impasse of the filibuster blocking hopes for the passage gun control measures at the national level, New York state Democratic legislators have taken matters into their own hands, passing a package of new ten bills designed to curb access to firearms.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the laws on Monday from the Bronx.
“In New York, we’re taking bold, strong action. We’re tightening the red flag laws to keep guns away from dangerous people, and we’re raising the age of semiautomatic weapons so no 18-year-old can walk in on their birthday and walk out with an AR-15. Those days are over,” Hochul said in a press conference on Monday.
One of the laws raises the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic weapon by requiring purchasers to have a license, only available to New Yorkers ages 21 and up. The Uvalde shooter was an 18-year-old who legally purchased AR-15s days before killing 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School, while the Buffalo shooter was also 18 and also purchased an AR-15 legally.
Other laws in the package signed by Hochul restrict the sale of body armor to ‘eligible professionals,’ such as police; expand the ‘red flag’ law, allowing for health care professionals to file an ‘Extreme Risk Protection Order’ that would prevent “potentially harmful individuals” from acquiring a gun license; clarify the certification of ‘microstamping’ that allows law enforcement officials to trace bullets and casings to an individual weapon; close a loophole that allowed some modified weapons not to be sold as firearms; and end the grandfathering of large capacity ammunition feeding devices purchased before laws banning them went into effect.
The new laws aren’t limited to restricting the gun industry. Another law requires social media sites to have a clear policy about how they will report hateful conduct on their platforms. This is in response to reports that the Buffalo shooter posted on social media about his plans in the months leading up to the attack.
“There is a motive that develops first,” said New York Attorney General Leticia James, “fueled by hate and enabled by the dark corners of the Internet. Social media provides an unchecked vehicle for these dangerous and corrosive ideas to spread. At my office, we are already investigating the role that these companies played in the attack in Buffalo, but with these new laws signed today we will be able to expand our work to study and to address this growing threat.”
“These bills are common-sense,” Kris Brown, President of Brady: United Against Gun Violence, said in a statement. “This package of laws will help to keep New Yorkers safe and are a clear example for the rest of the nation to act to stop gun violence.”
“We urge those outside of New York State to act with the same level of urgency in order to address gun violence as the nationwide issue it is,” said New York State Office of Gun Violence Prevention Director Calliana S. Thomas.
President Biden has called for more gun control laws on the national level, including a ban on the kind of assault weapons — AR-15s — used by the Buffalo and Uvalde shooters. Biden himself was the author of such a ban, which remained in place until 2004.
“Over the past two decades, more school-aged children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active-duty military combined,” Biden said in an address to the nation on Thursday, June 2.
Unfortunately, while a package of laws including measures to raise the minimum age to purchase semiautomatic weapons and to strengthen background checks is on its way through the U.S. House of Representatives, it is unlikely to survive the Senate, where despite an even share of power Republicans can use the filibuster to effectively block such legislation.
Legally speaking, the best hope of enacting gun control measures right now is for other states to follow New York’s example and pass their own laws to reduce the risks of gun violence. Logistically speaking, though, the weapons found in a state are affected by the laws every state it borders and beyond.