Firearms Safety Measures

Published on May 31st, 2022

Memorandum of Support

Re: A1023-A (Paulin)/S4970-A (Kavanaugh), A6716-A (Wallace)/S89-B (Kaminsky), A7926-A (L. Rosenthal)/S4116-A (Hoylman), A7865-A (Fahy)/S4511-A (Kaplan), A10428-A (Peoples-Stokes)/S9229-A (Hoylman), A10497 (Jacobson)/S9407-B (Kavanaugh), A10501 (Meeks)/S9465 (Bailey), A10502 (Cahill)/S9113-A (Skoufis), A10503 (Jackson)/S9458 (Thomas), A10504 (Burgos)/S9456 (Sepulveda) 
In relation to Firearms Safety Measures

 The May 14 racially motivated massacre in a Buffalo supermarket, followed 10 days later by the unspeakable slaughter of 19 elementary school students and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas, has shaken the country to its core. Federal action is urgently needed to address the issue of gun violence, particularly such rampage shootings that shatter the peace in our communities, take an incomprehensible toll on survivors and families, and leaves Americans, especially children, in a constant state of anxiety and fear that they will be next. 

Absent federal action, the state government must act. New York has already taken important steps, including the passage of the NY SAFE Act in 2013, just two months after another elementary school massacre, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The above-referenced legislation will not end gun violence but it provides important, critically needed safeguards to keep guns out of the hands of those most likely to commit mass shootings. 

The bills would: require information sharing between state, local and federal agencies when guns are used in crimes; make threatening mass harm a crime; create a path toward microstamping for new guns; increase accountability for social media platforms; eliminate grandfathering of large capacity ammunition feeding devices; prohibit the purchase of body armor for anyone who is not engaged in an eligible profession; strengthen the Red Flag law by expanding the list of people who can file for Extreme Risk Protection Orders, and other measures; require that an individual obtain a license, with a minimum age of 21, to purchase a semiautomatic rifle; and close the “any other weapon” loophole. 

Of particular note is A10503/S9458, which treats semi-automatic rifles with the same restrictions as handguns, requiring a license and for the individual purchasing or possessing the weapon to be 21 or older. We know that the overwhelming majority of school shootings are committed by people under age 21. Both the Buffalo and Uvalde shooters were 18 years old, and both purchased their semi-automatic rifles (AR-15s) legally, shortly after their birthdays. While it is not possible to stop all illegal gun sales, purchasing an illegal AR-15 is significantly more challenging, which likely explains why the shooters waited until just after their 18th birthdays to acquire their weapons. Had they been unable to purchase these weapons sooner, it increases the likelihood that whatever troubling or threatening behaviors they were exhibiting, would have triggered a red flag warning before they could commit their crimes. Package of legislation in relation to firearms safety measures 

Strengthening the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law (A10502/S9113-A) is also of vital importance. The Buffalo shooter had made a threat against his high school in Broome County a year earlier, and was sent for a psychological evaluation, yet was able to purchase a legal AR-15 rifle in New York State. 

No package of legislation could possibly entirely remove the risk of mass shootings, especially when laws vary from state to state. However, the comprehensive approach undertaken by the Legislature and Governor here is an important step in the right direction. 

We must not let Buffalo and Uvalde fade into memory, as has happened with other mass shootings, without strong action to protect our children and all our citizens from this societal evil. We applaud Governor Hochul and the Legislature for leading the way in addressing this urgent issue. We urge passage of this legislation.