The state of New York is ready to become one of the very first states in America to pass a series of new gun laws as a response to the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Texas.
The new laws have been championed by Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul along with New York’s liberal legislature. The restrictions will go further in tightening the state’s gun ownership restrictions and raise the age from 18 to 21 for purchasing semi-automatic rifles like the ones that have been used in the shootings.
The new legislation has an emotional urgency behind it from the grief expressed at the shooting in Buffalo, the second-largest city in the state. There were 10 people killed because of their race in a supermarket attack last month.
The laws are also a response to what some believe is the failure of the state’s strict background checks and their “Red Flag” law that is meant to prevent such shootings, according to Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate Majority Leader. They also hope to close loopholes in some of the nation’s most restrictive laws.
“We’ve done a lot. On the national level, they are talking about the things that we’ve already done. So we continue to lead, and to try to answer the moment as it occurs,” Stewart-Cousins said.
The Democratic leadership plans to have these laws passed before the state legislative session ends next week. This package of laws comes nine years after the last restrictive laws were passed following the Sandy Hook school shooting. Those laws fueled criticism from advocates of the Second Amendment including an intense backlash aimed at then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The measure passed then was called the SAFE Act, and it made its way through a GOP-led Senate.
These new laws should face a much less intense passage in the Senate due to the Democratic-led chambers. It is unusual for laws like this to be passed in an election year and the governor along with every state legislator is up for reelection. But these politicians are making a platform on gun restrictions to fight gun violence and the voting constituency is saying that crime is the most important issue as they chose candidates.
Rebecca Fischer is the executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. She said, “I really look at this package as being very comprehensive, holistic in its approach to addressing this public health crisis. I think that for states like Connecticut, and New Jersey, California, these are laws that can be used as a model to get them up to speed right away.”
Governor Hochul is saying that she will not be finished after these laws are passed. She is already planning a response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could overturn New York’s limited ban on concealed carry permits. And Brooklyn Democratic Senator Zellnor Myrie said, “I think we’re at a moment where the public is expecting us to put everything on the table. And I don’t think we can do enough. I think we can always be doing more gun safety. And my hope is that this doesn’t just happen in the wake of a tragedy, but that we maintain this energy.”
New York Republicans have criticized the new proposed gun laws and said the focus should be on mental health and more officers for protection.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican, said, “I do not support gun control. I stand up for the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens, but there’s work that we need to do and that is increasing mental health funding and increasing those resources for school resource officers.”
But most experts believe the GOP voices will not be able to stop the momentum the Democrats have right now.