The gun epidemic is a distinctively American crisis. Scenes of gun violence are deeply shocking, yet heartbreakingly familiar— shoppers running errands in grocery stores, worshippers gathered in prayer, American families running from gunshots at a 4th of July parade, straphangers riding the subway. Even everyday interactions like traffic incidents and noise complaints are now made deadly by the availability of a gun. And the toll this easy access takes on marginalized communities and victims of abuse is devastating. Our children are now able to coach their parents through active shooter protocols that they’ve learned in school. They are as prepared for carnage as they are for their next quiz. This is a dystopian scenario that has become all too real.
In a sign of how out of touch they are, the Supreme Court of the United States gutted our state’s centuries-old regulations on concealed carry permits when it declared in NYSRPA v Bruen that access to guns, wherever and whoever you are, is a fundamental right—one without limitation. This is judicial activism at its worst, and what’s more, it flagrantly disregards the wishes of the vast majority of Americans—citizens of all political affiliations— who favor stronger, not weaker, gun laws.
Instead of waiting for Federal action to correct this unconscionable act of judicial activism, the New York state legislature went back up to Albany for an extraordinary session to act quickly and decisively to keep guns off our streets. Shortly after this legislation passed through both the Assembly and the Senate, Governor Hochul called it to her desk, and – effectively immediately – made our legislation law.
Ease of access to a gun is at the heart of all gun violence in our country, whether it is used to kill in a school, in a supermarket, or on the street. That’s why in June, even before the Supreme Court struck down our regulations on concealed carry, the state legislature passed a law to ban under-21-year-olds from purchasing semi-automatic rifles, to enhance tracing ability by requiring microstamping in firearms, to restrict sales of bullet-resistant vests and body armor to only necessary professionals, and to tighten New York’s “red flag” law, through which people who might be a threat to themselves or others can see their access to guns significantly limited by courts.
Building upon work done previously in the year to combat gun violence, the legislature strengthened licensing requirements that any New Yorker seeking to obtain a firearms license must meet; protecting private property rights by requiring owners to “opt in” to allowing weapons on their property; decreasing children’s access to guns by ensuring safe storage laws apply if a minor under the age of 18 lives in the home; and codifying that a person cannot leave a weapon in a car outside of their possession unless the weapon is in a lockbox.
Crucially this legislation establishes a list of ‘sensitive locations’ where even licensed guns are not allowed to be carried, including: any government property, including courts; any doctor’s office or hospital; any church, synagogue, mosque, or religious space; any library, park, playground, or zoo; any pre-school, school, childcare provider, or summer camp; any shelter; any educational institution; any public transit; any place that sells alcohol or cannabis; any protest; any polling place; any entertainment venue including theaters, museums and stadiums; and Times Square.
This new legislation will protect our communities from gun violence, but work still remains to be done to end this scourge in our communities, once and for all. We need Congress to get real about cracking the Iron Pipeline where 86% of the guns used in crimes in New York flow through. And we need Congress to pass a new national assault weapons ban to get these instruments of death off store shelves once and for all.
But here in New York we are not going to sit idly by and do nothing while the Supreme Court tries to eviscerate our common sense gun laws and Congress spends another 30 years debating how to stop gun violence. Because when the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776 they, for reasons too numerous to enumerate, could never have imagined their descendants running from semi-automatic rifle fire at an Independence Day parade.
State Senator Andrew Gounardes represents areas of southern Brooklyn; Kristen Pettit is a founding member of Moms Demand Action.