Governor Kathy Hochul signed a package of 10 gun control bills into law Monday, June 6, aiming to tighten New York’s firearm regulations after a series of devastating mass shootings in the state and across the country over the past month.
The new laws raise the age to buy semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, largely ban the sale body armor vests, and take aim at online extremism spreading via social media.
“I’m speaking to you today as the governor of a state in mourning and a citizen of a nation in crisis, for over the past few weeks we’ve been overcome by grief, by heartache, by anger,” said Governor Hochul during a press conference at the Northeast Bronx YMCA.
The state Legislature in Albany passed the measures during the final days of the session last week.
The measures came in the aftermath of the deadly and racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket on May 14, when a gunman shot and killed 10 Black people and injured three more last month.
The horrific tragedy was soon followed by a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where a man killed 19 children and two teachers, and wounded another 17.
Dozens more have been shot in the weeks since, including at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wednesday, and just over the weekend in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“It just keeps happening. Shots ring out, flags come down, and nothing ever changes — except here in New York,” Hochul said.
The new laws in the Empire State require a permit to buy a semiautomatic rifle and for purchasers to be 21 years of age or older. Another bill makes it illegal to buy a body vest except for certain professions like police officers and military service members.
Semiautomatic pistols manufactured or delivered to any licensed gun dealer in the state will have to be capable of micro-stamping ammunition, which lawmakers hope will make it easier to investigate shootings.
Both shooters in Buffalo and Uvalde waited until they were 18-years-old to buy assault weapons and the attacker in the New York attack donned body armor.
The upstate gunman streamed his rampage on Twitch and two bills will make social media platforms monitor and report hateful content and convene a state task force to tackle violent extremism online.
Another law creates a new misdemeanor crime for threatening mass harm against a group of people or toward institutions like schools, houses of worship, businesses, government buildings, and other gatherings.
Albany legislators voted to tighten the state’s so-called “red flag” laws, adding healthcare officials like doctors and nurses to the list of people who can petition for an “extreme risk protection order” against someone, which allows courts to temporarily take that person’s guns because they’re considered a danger to themselves or others.
Hochul and a host of state pols on Monday called on the federal government to pass gun control laws.
“Action in New York alone is not enough, because guns and criminals don’t respect borders,” said State Attorney Letitia James. “We need our colleagues around the country to step up and I urge others with a backbone to follow. Lives are at stake every single day and we cannot wait for another baby, another child, another innocent victim to have their face blown away.”
The U.S. Supreme Court could issue a ruling this month overturning New York’s concealed carry law.
James — who has repeatedly gone after the gun lobby, including unsuccessfully suing to dissolve the National Rifle Association — said her office would fight to keep the new laws in place against those who would challenge the restrictions on the grounds of the Constitutional right to bear arms.
“My office, we will be ready to defend these laws against any challenges,” the state’s top prosecutor said. “To all those who would think, all those drunk with power, who think that they will challenge these laws, let me tell you that the Second Amendment is not absolute.”