Hochul signs landmark legislative package to strengthen gun laws, protect New Yorkers

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Gov. Kathy Hochul signs comprehensive gun laws flanked by advocates.
Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday signed a landmark legislative package to immediately strengthen the state’s gun laws, close critical loopholes exposed by shooters in Buffalo and Uvalde and protect New Yorkers from the scourge of gun violence that continues to infect the nation and endanger communities.

Hochul signed the bills at the Northeast Bronx YMCA flanked by Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Carl Heastie, partners in the legislature, Attorney General Letitia James and victims and survivors of gun violence.

“Gun violence is an epidemic that is tearing our country apart. Thoughts and prayers won’t fix this, but taking strong action will,” Gov. Hochul said. “In New York, we’re taking bold steps to protect the people of our state. I am proud to sign a comprehensive bill package that prohibits the sale of semiautomatic weapons to people under 21, bans body armor sales outside of people in select professions, closes critical gun law loopholes and strengthens our Red Flag Law to keep guns away from dangerous people—new measures that I believe will save lives.

“I am thankful to Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Heastie, and all our legislative partners for acting with the urgency and thoughtfulness that this issue demands,” she added. “While we are taking expedient action to enhance New York State’s nation-leading gun laws, we recognize that gun violence is a nationwide problem.

“I once again urge Congress to follow our lead and take immediate action to pass meaningful gun violence prevention measures,” Hochul continued. “Lives depend on it.”

“There is a scourge of gun violence in our country due to the pervasiveness of illegal firearms. Year after year, our neighborhoods are flooded with illegal guns and ghost guns, tormenting families and law-abiding citizens every day, but yet the national response does not change,” Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado said. “In New York, we just passed common-sense gun safety legislation and more kids will live to see their high school graduation because of it. In the fight to save lives, New York is leading the way.”

Stewart-Cousins said, “Our nation has been brought to a moment of reckoning due to weapons of war that have been too easily accessed by those seeking to kill. These weapons have made places in our communities like schools, grocery stores, houses of worship, and concerts, places of carnage.

“In these devastating times in New York and across the nation, we have worked with Governor Hochul, Speaker Heastie, and members of the Democratic Legislature to step up and send a message that this path of gun violence is unacceptable and we need real change,” he added.

Heastie said, “My colleagues and I in the Assembly Majority have worked tirelessly for years to address the scourge of gun violence that has plagued this country for far too long.

“In just 10 days, two horrific shootings took the lives of 31 innocent people in Uvalde, Texas and right here in Buffalo, New York – including children – in places where they should have felt safe,” he said. “Together with our colleagues in the Senate and Gov. Hochul, 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.

“I am proud of our efforts here in New York, but this country needs to have a serious conversation about its obscene fascination with guns and assault weapons so that every American can live without the fear of gun violence devastating their communities,” Heastie added.

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “New York is taking decisive action to protect children and families from mass violence and domestic terrorism. Our moral imperative is to act because no one should live in fear while grocery shopping, attending school, or worshiping.

“We are protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens and reducing opportunities for radicalization through online platforms and social media outlets,” she said. “Furthermore, we have: strengthened  early warning systems; expanded access to extreme risk protective orders; closed loopholes for combat equipment and military-grade weapons, and made the prosecution of mass violence more effective. I’d like to thank the Speaker, my colleagues for pushing and supporting this legislation and Governor Hochul for signing it into Law.”

James said, “Today, New York is taking swift, comprehensive action to combat the gun violence epidemic that continues to take the lives of innocent Americans each and every day.

“Across the nation, loopholes, lax laws, and the inaction of public officials allow guns to proliferate in our streets and devastate our communities,” she said. “With this new package of gun laws, New York will continue to lead in imposing reasonable gun laws that keep our people safe, and I urge other states to follow suit. The time for thoughts and prayers alone has long passed — now is the time for action.”

Signed into law less than one month after the tragic white supremacist act of terror at a Buffalo supermarket, Hochul said this comprehensive 10-bill package will: ban the sale of semiautomatic rifles to anyone under 21 by requiring a license; prohibit the purchase of body armor by anyone 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 (ERPOs) and requiring law enforcement to file ERPOs under a very specified set of circumstances; and make threatening mass harm a crime.

The package will also require microstamping for new semiautomatic handguns; enhance information sharing between state, local and federal agencies when guns are used in crimes and strengthen requirements for gun dealers related to record-keeping and safeguarding their inventory; close the “other gun” loophole by revising and widening the definition of a firearm; eliminate the grandfathering of large capacity feeding devices; and require social media platforms to provide a mechanism for users to report hateful conduct.

The first Executive Order is designed to fight the troubling surge in domestic terrorism and violent extremism frequently inspired by, planned on and posted about on social media platforms and internet forums.

The Executive Order calls on the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to establish a new unit, dedicated solely to the prevention of domestic terrorism, within the Division’s Office of Counter Terrorism.

This new unit will focus on threat assessment management, disbursing funding to localities to create and operate their own threat assessment management teams and utilizing social media to intervene in the radicalization process.

It will also educate law enforcement members, mental health professionals and school officials on the recent uptick in domestic and homegrown violent extremism and radicalization, as well as create best practices for identifying and intervening in the radicalization process.

The Executive Order also calls on New York State Police to establish a dedicated unit within the New York State Intelligence Center (NYSIC) to track domestic violent extremism through social media. The unit will develop investigative leads through social media analysis, with a specific focus on identifying possible threats and individuals motivated by radicalization and violent extremism.

In addition, the Executive Order calls on every county to perform an exhaustive review of its current strategies, policies and procedures for confronting threats of domestic terrorism.

The second Executive Order will require State Police to file for an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) under New York State’s Red Flag Law whenever they have probable cause to believe that an individual is a threat to themselves or others.

Gov. Hochul also issued a referral to the Office of the Attorney General under Executive Law Section 63(8) to investigate and study the social media platforms that were utilized by the Buffalo shooting suspect to broadcast, promote, and facilitate violence, espouse hate, and legitimize replacement theory.

Findings from the investigation will be used to enhance and build on New York State’s strategy for combatting hate and violent extremism.

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