New York lawmakers led by Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul are pushing a new bill to tighten gun restrictions after the recent deadly mass shootings in Buffalo and Texas.
The Democrat-dominated Legislature is behind the bill, which would raise the age of those who can purchase semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters that the bill would close loopholes in the state’s gun laws and is a direct response to the mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket that killed 10 people, along with the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting that claimed 21 lives.
“We’ve done a lot. On the national level, they are talking about the things that we’ve already done,” Stewart-Cousins said. “So we continue to lead and to try to answer the moment as it occurs.”
Democratic lawmakers believe that tighter firearm restrictions will also address the rise in gun violence and crime sweeping the state.
Rebecca Fischer, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, believes that gun violence is a “public health crisis.”
“I really look at this package as being very comprehensive, holistic in its approach to addressing this public health crisis,” she said. “I think that for states like Connecticut, New Jersey and California, these are laws that can be used as a model to get them up to speed right away.”
“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,” Senator Zellnor Myrie said regarding a Supreme Court decision on challenging the state’s ban on concealed carry permits.
New York Mayor Eric Adams also addressed the public about the Supreme Court decision on concealed carry.
“People are going to have the right to openly carry in our cities,” he said. “That something we should be alarmed about.”
As part of the legislation, age requirements for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle like the one used in the Buffalo shooting will be bumped up to 21.
It also contains other provisions, such as strengthening the Red Flag Law, which allows authorities to confiscate guns from those deemed a risk to themselves or others by health care professionals or law enforcement.
Fischer believes law enforcement needs to do more to act pre-emptively to prevent attacks. She is hopeful the new bill will allow law enforcement to act more effectively.
“There was nothing stopping either of those stakeholders, the police, the school administrator, from filing a petition while waiting for the mental health evaluation,” Fischer said. “If we put a law on the books that require law enforcement to look a little further, it’s more likely that this will be tapped into and that that law enforcement on the ground will be trained to know that this is a tool that they can use.”
Finally, another bill bans civilians outside law enforcement from purchasing body armor, which prevented the security guard at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo from injuring the attacker.
New York Republicans adamantly opposed the proposals in the bill.
“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,” Republican Representative Elise Stefanik said.
The governor announced her support for the bill, saying the changes must occur immediately.
“We’re going to have a package that people are going to be proud of, and it’s going to close some of the loopholes, but also say that 18-year-olds who cannot buy a beer at the local bar should not be able to buy an assault weapon,” Hochul said.