ALBANY — Following a pair of heinous tragedies, Gov. Hochul and state lawmakers announced a deal Tuesday on a package of bills that will tighten New York’s already strict gun laws and raise the minimum age to buy a semiautomatic rifle to 21.
The agreement comes in the wake of mass shootings at a Texas elementary school and a Buffalo supermarket that left dozens dead and prompted renewed calls for change at the national level.
Hochul said New York must step up as it remains unclear if Congress will take action.
“New York already has some of the toughest gun laws in the country but clearly we need to make them even stronger,” the governor said in a statement. “New Yorkers deserve to feel safe in schools, in grocery stores, in movie theaters, in shopping malls, and on our streets — and we must do everything in our power to protect them.”
The package includes measures prohibiting the sale and purchase of body armor for anyone not in law enforcement and closing the “any other weapon” loophole that allows the sale of certain weapons that would otherwise be banned. Another bill could lead to the microstamping of ammunition.
Among the biggest changes to New York’s gun laws will be a new requirement that anyone seeking to buy a semi-automatic rifle must be 21, up from 18, and must first obtain a gun license.
Currently, licenses and permits are only needed for handguns.
“Our nation has been brought to a moment of reckoning due to weapons of war that have been too easily accessed by those seeking to kill,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said. “These weapons have made places in our communities like schools, grocery stores, houses of worship, and concerts, places of carnage.”
Other bills will strengthen the state’s “red flag” law, which helps remove guns from those who may be a threat to themselves or others, and create a new “Task Force on Social Media and Violent Extremism” within the attorney general’s office to “study and investigate the role of social media companies in promoting and facilitating violent extremism and domestic terrorism online.”
On May 14, 10 people, all Black, were killed while shopping at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo. Authorities allege that 18-year-old Payton Gendron gunned down his victims after posting racist screeds in online chatrooms and plotting the massacre for months.
Last week, Salvador Ramos, also 18, slaughtered 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, before being killed by police. Ramos reportedly posted pictures of guns and made threatening comments online ahead of his rampage.
Both suspected shooters used variations of semi-automatic rifles known as an AR-15s, which are legal in New York. The gun used in the Buffalo shooting was modified with a high-capacity magazine that allows 30 shots per round and purchased in Pennsylvania, according to police.
“Just 10 days separated the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde that took the lives of 31 people. Nowhere else in the world is this happening,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). “We are in desperate need of a conversation about guns, but we are also in desperate need of action.
“I hope that one day we’ll see the end to the horrific gun violence we see in this country. But until then, I will keep fighting,” he added.
Lawmakers are expected to vote on the package before the scheduled end of the legislative session on Thursday.
Other bills slated for approval will eliminate the grandfathering of large capacity ammunition feeding devices lawfully possessed prior to the enactment of the Safe Act in 2013 or manufactured prior to 1994. Under the new laws, police will have to report seized or recovered guns to the criminal gun clearinghouse and share information with federal authorities as well as test-fire seized or recovered guns for national integrated Ballistic Information Network.
The State Police will also be required to conduct inspections of gun dealers every three years.
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