Following a pair of heinous tragedies, in Buffalo of New York state and most recently Uvalde in Texas, New York governor, Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers announced a deal Tuesday May 31, on a package of bills that will raise the minimum age to buy a semiautomatic rifle to 21 and tighten New York’s already strict gun laws.
The agreement comes in the wake of mass shootings at a Texas elementary school and a Buffalo supermarket that left dozens dead prompting renewed calls for gun laws change at the national level.
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 chat rooms 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 shooters used variations of semiautomatic rifles known as an AR-15s, which are legal in New York.
Hochul said New York must step up and change its gun laws to ensure citizens safety until Congress decides to 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 Tuesday, May 31.
“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 new law 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.
Among the biggest changes to New York’s gun laws will be a new requirement that anyone seeking to buy a semiautomatic rifle must be at least 21, up from 18, and must first obtain a gun license.
At the moment, licenses and permits are needed only 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,” state 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.”
“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, June 2.
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 the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.
The state police will also be required to conduct inspections of gun dealers every three years.