ALBANY, N.Y. — New York enacted strict new gun laws on Monday, including raising the age for people to be able to buy semiautomatic weapons and banning body armor.
Gov. Kathy Hochul commended lawmakers in the Democrat-led Legislature for taking swift action during the final week of session as she signed off on the package of 10 bills penned in response to a deadly race-based massacre at a Buffalo supermarket and a Texas school shooting that left dozens dead.
“Shots ring out, flags come down and nothing ever changes. Except here in New York,” the governor said as she was joined by advocates and dozens of high ranking public officials during an event at a Bronx YMCA. “In New York, we are taking strong bold action.”
The biggest change in law is a new requirement that anyone seeking to buy a semiautomatic rifle must be at least 21, up from 18, and must first obtain a gun license. Previously, permits were only needed for handguns.
The new laws will also revise the state’s “red flag” statute, which allows courts to temporarily take away guns from people who might be a threat to themselves or others, and require microstamping in new firearms.
Now, healthcare professionals and others will be able to file “red flag” risk orders if someone is a threat and police will be required to seek an order if credible information is provided.
The package also includes measures prohibiting the sale and purchase of body armor for anyone not in law enforcement and closing the “any other weapon” loophole that allowed the sale of certain firearms that would otherwise be banned under existing state law.
A new task force will also be added to the state attorney general’s office to “study and investigate the role of social media companies in promoting and facilitating violent extremism and domestic terrorism.”
The changes come less than a month after 10 people, all Black, were killed while shopping at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo.
Authorities allege that 18-year-old Payton Gendron intentionally targeted the store after posting racist screeds in online chat rooms and plotting the massacre for months.
Just days later, Salvador Ramos, also 18, slaughtered 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, before being killed by police. Ramos reportedly posted pictures of guns and made threatening comments online ahead of his rampage.
Semiautomatic AR-15 style assault weapons were used in both incidents, according to police.
Social media companies operating in New York will also be required to improve policies related to responding to and reporting hateful conduct on their platforms.
Another law enacted on Monday creates a new misdemeanor crime for threatening mass harm against a group of people or toward institutions like schools, houses of worship, businesses, government buildings and other gatherings.
State Attorney General Letitia James encouraged other states to follow New York’s lead.
“Action in New York alone is not enough, because guns and criminals don’t respect borders,” she said during the signing event. “Lives are at stake every single day and we cannot wait for another baby, another child, another innocent victim to have their face blown away.”
James vowed to defend the state’s new statutes against legal challenges as the Supreme Court is currently poised to issue a ruling that could overturn New York’s concealed-carry law.
“To all those who would think, all those drunk with power, who think that they will challenge these laws, let me tell you that the Second Amendment is not absolute,” she said.