While Republicans in Congress promise they won’t allow any meaningful new regulations on guns, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul yesterday signed a package of new bills that will close loopholes in the state’s gun laws and raise the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21. The new laws follow the horrible mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, both committed by shooters who legally bought their AR-15 rifles even though they were only 18.
In a speech prior to signing the bills, Hochul said the hell with thoughtsandprayers:
It just keeps happening. Shots ring out. Flags come down, and nothing changes. Except here in New York. In New York, we are taking strong bold action.
Hochul urged Congress to pass similar legislation; the House this week is likely to pass the Protecting Our Kids Act, which includes a measure increasing to 21 the federal age to purchase semiautomatic rifles and shotguns, but it’s likely DOA in the Senate, even though polling shows nearly three quarters of Americans support making 21 the legal age to buy guns. But 40 percent of Republicans are OK with their fellow Americans dying for the sake of precious, precious guns, and that percentage is way higher in GOP primaries in red states. So it goes.
New York already has pretty strong gun laws, passed after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. The new laws, in addition to raising the age to buy semiautomatic rifles to 21, will also require owners of such rifles to get a license, as is currently required for handguns in New York. Eighteen-year-olds will be able to own other types of long guns, such as shotguns and bolt-action rifles. Or muskets — which should be the only firearms allowed under the Second Amendment. Where are those strict textualists when you need them?
The new legislation also expands the state’s “red flag” law so that more people, like health professionals, can file a request for a judge to take guns away from people likely to hurt themselves or others. It also makes it mandatory for law enforcement to seek such an order if they get credible information of such a threat, and directs state police agencies to make sure law enforcement agencies throughout the state are clear on when officers should seek protective orders.
Other measures in the package would require that new semiautomatic pistols sold in New York be microstamped, which allows law enforcement to quickly match spent ammunition cartridges to the particular gun that fires them, and would limit purchases of body armor to people in law enforcement and other designated professions (the bill doesn’t appear to include “grocery cashiers” or “elementary school teachers,” however).
And in another area that might have helped in the case of the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, social media companies will be required to improve their policies regarding hateful conduct on their platforms, including providing a way for users to report hateful speech to moderators. (As far as we can tell, though, that wouldn’t obligate the companies to notify law enforcement, which we suppose would be in iffy First Amendment territory.) The Buffalo shooter posted long racist rants about his plans to social media, as well as descriptions of how he modified his AR-15, purchased in New York, to allow the attachment of a 30-round magazine, which is illegal in New York.
In an executive order issued shortly after the shooting in Buffalo, Hochul also ordered the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to set up a new unit dedicated to preventing domestic terrorism, and for the state police to establish a unit that would focus on tracking domestic extremism on social media.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, New York Attorney General Tish James said that the state would be ready to defend these laws against challenges, pointing out that “the Second Amendment is not absolute.” She clearly had in mind an upcoming US Supreme Court ruling that seems likely to gut New York’s concealed weapon law, which requires that people show “good cause” to get a concealed carry permit.
Research hasn’t supported gun humpers’ claim that more concealed weapons reduce crime, but it also hasn’t shown that relaxing concealed carry laws necessarily results in more violence either. That said, the eight states that, for the moment, require people to show they need a concealed weapon do indeed have lower homicide rates, although the exact reasons for the correlation haven’t been determined. With the Court ready to throw out those state laws, we suppose we’ll have eight laboratories ready to look at what the effects on murders and shootings will be. New York lawmakers are already planning to craft new legislation to limit the availability of concealed carry permits if the existing law is overturned.
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