New York governor signs bill raising age to buy semi-automatic rifles
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed 10 gun-related bills into law on Monday that will raise the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21 and tighten other regulations.
Hochul had called for the legislation following the mass shooting in a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., earlier this month that — along with the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting — reignited gun control debates across the country. The New York legislature passed the package last week.
“We’re raising the age of semi-automatic weapons so no 18-year-old can walk in on their birthday and walk out with an AR-15,” Hochul said at Monday’s bill signing ceremony. “Those days are over.”
Authorities have said the gunmen in the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings, who killed a combined 31 people, were both 18-year-olds who used AR-15-style rifles. Buffalo is Hochul’s hometown.
“It just keeps happening,” Hochul said. “Shots ring out, flags come down and nothing ever changes. Except here in New York.”
President Biden on Thursday called on Congress to renew an assault-style weapons ban at the federal level but acknowledged that such a move may be politically impossible, arguing that federal lawmakers at minimum should raise the purchasing age to 21.
The New York package also includes legislation that strengthens the state’s existing “red flag” law, which enables people to petition a court to prevent an individual deemed a danger to themselves or others from possessing or obtaining firearms. The changes allow additional people, such as health care workers, to file the petitions and require law enforcement to file them in certain circumstances.
The bills also require state and local law enforcement to submit gun crime information to national agencies in addition to “microstamping” on new guns. Microstamping is a ballistics identification technology that helps investigators match fired bullets with a firearm.
The package also makes it illegal for people to purchase and sell body vests with exceptions for law enforcement and other eligible professionals. A separate bill creates a task force to analyze social media companies’ role in promoting violent extremism and domestic terrorism.
“We have worked to make New York’s gun laws some of the toughest in the country, because we believe that every American deserves to feel safe,” New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) said in a statement.
New York isn’t the only state pushing gun reform following recent shootings. California’s and New Jersey’s Democratic governors have pushed for new gun legislation, and Nevada announced on Thursday that it would suspend investments in companies making assault-style weapons.
House Democrats are looking to move a pair of gun control measures this week that would include measures similar to the newly enacted New York package, including proposals to raise the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic weapons and create a federal red flag law.
The measures are poised to pass the Democratic-led House but are likely to face opposition in the Senate, where 10 Republican votes are necessary to overcome the legislative filibuster.
A bipartisan group of senators have been meeting to find common ground on gun-related legislation. Lawmakers involved in the talks said on Sunday it remains unclear if the negotiations will bear fruit but added that the group is focusing on mental health funding, school security, background checks and incentives for state “red flag” laws.