Assembly Passes Package of Legislation to Strengthen State's Gun Laws and Protect New York Communities

Speaker Carl Heastie today announced that the Assembly has passed a package of legislation to strengthen New York State’s gun laws, and help keep New Yorkers safe in their schools, places of worship and in their communities.

“The horrific mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde have shown us, once again, that our country needs to have a conversation about the national obsession with guns. But it has also shown us that we cannot wait to take action,” Speaker Heastie said. “Here in New York we are ready to act. This package of legislation will strengthen laws that we have on the books, help authorities better communicate with our federal partners about gun violence, work to address the role social media plays in violence and acts of domestic terrorism, and more. The Assembly Majority will continue working to end the scourge of gun violence so no New Yorker needs to fear going to school or to the grocery store or to their place of worship.”

Legislation included in the package would strengthen the 2019 Red Flag law by expanding those who can file an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) to include health care professionals who have examined the individual within the last six months. It would also require police and district attorneys to file ERPO petitions upon credible information that an individual is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to themself or others, and posesses or has access to firearms. Additionally, the bill would amend the firearm licensing statute to make it clear that when an individual has been reported by a treating health or mental health practitioner and a county mental health commissioner has concurred with such practitioner, that the individual is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to themself or others, such report is considered in determining whether or not to issue a firearm license to the individual. Finally, the bill would expand the list of mental health practitioners that can make such a report (A.10502, Cahill).

“When a person is in crisis, the folks best equipped to identify them and help out are mental health professionals. By strengthening the Red Flag Law and extending the ability to file Extreme Risk Protection Orders, we will help ensure that those who present an immediate danger to themselves and our communities, do not remain in the shadows and can begin to receive the attention and treatment they need,” said Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill.

Legislation that passed that would enhance the sharing of gun crime information by requiring all state and local law enforcement agencies in the state to submit gun crime information to the National Crime Information Center, the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network and the National Tracing Center of the Bureau of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. This will help track guns that have been unlawfully purchased or trafficked outside the state (A.1023-A, Paulin). Additionally, it would require:

  • Gun dealers to implement a security plan for securing firearms;
  • Individuals under 18 years of age be prohibited from entering certain locations on a gun dealer’s premises without parental accompaniment;
  • Gun dealers to provide training to all employees on the conduct of firearm, rifle and shotgun transfers; and
  • State police to conduct inspections of gun dealers every three years.

“There is a thriving underground market for illegal guns throughout this country, including in New York State,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin. “This legislation will improve the sharing of crime gun information by requiring state and local law enforcement agencies to submit crime gun information to federal databases. Additionally, since we know that roughly 25 percent of crime guns were obtained within New York, this legislation establishes security, training, and recordkeeping standards for retail gun dealers in the state. These measures will greatly enhance the state’s ability to prevent the unlawful sale of firearms, combat gun trafficking through comprehensive traces of crime guns, and ultimately save the lives of New Yorkers.”

This package of legislation would eliminate loopholes and update New York State law to keep pace with technology. Under current New York State law, it is illegal to possess large capacity ammunition feeding devices, but there were some that were grandfathered in. Legislation in this package would eliminate the grandfathering of those devices that were lawfully possessed prior to the Safe Act or manufactured prior to 1994 (A.10428-A, Peoples-Stokes). Another bill would expand the definition of a “firearm” to include any weapon that is designed or may be readily converted to expel a projective by action of an explosive, but is not currently included in the Penal Law. Under current law, firearms that have been modified to be shot from an arm brace evade the definition of firearms and rifles (A.10504, Burgos). Additional legislation would require the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to certify whether microstamping-enabled pistols are technologically viable. If so, they would then be required to establish programs and processes for the implementation of the technology, and would make it a crime to sell a firearm that is not equipped with microstamping technology (A.7926-A, Rosenthal).

“The Assembly Majority is committed to strengthening our state’s gun laws so heinous tragedies like the one we saw in my community in Buffalo, and those we have seen occur over and over in our country, never happen again,” Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes said. “This package of legislation is another step towards achieving safety. While it is illegal to possess a large capacity ammunition feeding device, there were those that were grandfathered into law and lawfully possessed. It’s time to end that provision and keep them off our streets for good.”

“We have lost too many New Yorkers - too many Americans - to gun violence. We have to ensure that our laws match the weapons that are being used in our communities,” Assemblymember Kenny Burgos said. “This legislation will help ensure that guns that have been modified, especially those adapted to shoot from an arm brace, will continue to fall under the classification of ‘firearms.’”

“Gun violence is the number one leading cause of death among our nation’s young people. Our inaction in the face of so much preventable carnage is a national embarrassment. In the face of continued federal paralysis, New York is taking the lead once again to crack down on guns,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Microstamping is a vital tool that will help law enforcement solve crimes. With a clearance rate on gun crimes of 30 percent in New York City, microstamping will help get dangerous criminals and their guns of the streets. This is one of the best ways to end the viscous cycle of violence. I am grateful to Speaker Heastie for his leadership on this issue.”

Included in the package is a bill that would require that an individual obtain a license prior to purchasing a semiautomatic rifle. The licensing process would be the same as it is for a pistol or revolver, and would be prospective (A.10503, Jackson).

“In New York State, we already require a permit to purchase a pistol or a revolver. My legislation will institute the same requirements for semiautomatic rifles,” Assemblymember Chantel S. Jackson said. “Both in Buffalo and in Uvalde, Texas, 18 year olds went out and bought semiautomatic rifles, and between the two attacks, murdered 31 people. Instituting a permit process is a logical, commonsense provision to keep New Yorkers safe.”

The package also includes legislation to address hate and threats made on social media. The first wouldrequire social media networks in New York to provide a clear and concise policy regarding how they would respond to incidents of hateful conduct on their platform and maintain easily accessible mechanisms for reporting hateful conduct on those platforms (A.7865-A, Fahy). The second would create a Task Force on Social Media and Violent Extremism within the Office of the Attorney General to study and investigate the role of social media companies in promoting and facilitating violent extremism and domestic terrorism online (A.10501, Meeks).

“We have seen too much hate and misinformation spread across social media networks, and too often that vitriol spills over into violence offline and can culminate into the type of violence that occurred in Buffalo last month,” Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said. “With over 4.75 billion posts made on Facebook alone every day and more than 70 percent of Americans having some form of social media account, we need social media platforms to put into place clear, concise policies on how to report and address hateful content. This legislation sends a strong message to social media platforms and companies; that they must take real action to protect New Yorkers from the spread of dangerous hate speech and misinformation online.”

“While social media has allowed us to more easily connect with friends and loved ones, it has also connected those who are united by hatred and violent extremism,” Assemblymember Demond Meeks said. “My legislation will establish the Task Force on Social Media and Violent Extremism, and help us to understand the ways these platforms have facilitated and promoted hate and domestic terrorism.”

Legislation included in this package would create two new crimes. The first of which would establish “making a threat of mass harm” as a class B misdemeanor, in the case of an individual threatening to inflict or cause serious physical injury or death at a school, place of worship, business, government building or other place of assembly. It would also establish “aggravated making a threat of mass harm,” or engaging in making the threat and making overt acts to further the threat, as a class A misdemeanor (A.6716-A, Wallace).

“Threats of violence and domestic terrorism need to be taken seriously,” Assemblymember Monica Wallace said. “This legislation will treat threats against our communities and public spaces with the gravity they deserve, and hold those that make them accountable. It will also deter the types of copycat threats of violence that we saw following the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, which caused an already terrorized community further trauma.”

A body vest was worn by the gunman in the attack in Buffalo, as well as by the perpetrators in other mass shootings. Another bill would make it illegal to purchase and sell body vests to anyone that is not engaged in an eligible profession, which includes law enforcement and other professions designated by the Department of State. It would also require the sale of body vests to be completed in person (A.10497, Jacobson).

“As in far too many other mass shootings, the gunman in Buffalo went into the store wearing a bulletproof vest so he would be safe while he slaughtered innocent victims,” said Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson. “Unless your profession puts you at risk of gun violence, there is no reason you need this kind of body armor. This bill will help keep bulletproof vests out of the hands of those who want to protect themselves from law enforcement or other security officers while harming others.”

In addition, the Assembly Majority passed a resolution (K.1028, Wallace) calling on Congress to reinstate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. The ban prohibited manufacture of certain semiautomatic firearms and large capacity magazines for use by civilians. Since the ban expired in 2004, these types of weapons have been used in mass shootings in the U.S., including in the horrific tragedies that occurred in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas last month.