Governor Hochul expected to sign gun reform bills as NYC Mayor Adams announces 'gun violence czar'

ByEyewitness News via WABC logo
Friday, June 3, 2022
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New York's legislature passed legislation Thursday banning anyone under age 21 from buying or possessing a semi-automatic rifle.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York's legislature passed legislation banning anyone under age 21 from buying or possessing a semi-automatic rifle, a major change to state firearm laws pushed through less than three weeks after an 18-year-old used one of the guns to kill 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo.

The gun reform bills are expected to be signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul.

"Our nation-leading gun legislation package just passed both houses," Hochul said in a tweet. "New York is taking swift action to strengthen Red Flag laws, close loopholes, and protect communities."

All of the major bills passed in the wake of recent mass shootings.

That includes criminalizing the threat of attacks, banning the sale of body armor, requiring licenses for the purchase of assault rifles, and raising the minimum age to 21 to buy an assault rifle.

In Manhattan, supporters rallied on the steps of City Hall as Mayor Eric Adams announced his new Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

The mayor appointed A.T. Mitchell to co-chair the unit alongside Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives Sheena Wright.

Mitchell is the founder of Brooklyn-based anti-violence group Man Up!, known for dispatching teams of violence interrupters to neighborhoods with high shooting rates to prevent tragedies before they strike.

Members of the task force will meet regularly to solve problems in real-time and ensure that all agencies are held accountable for making and keeping New York neighborhoods safe, a press release said.

The mayor's plan includes engaging with communities most impacted by gun violence and getting them resources.

"My job is to bring our best practices, what i know from the council, what I know from experts that I work alongside of, and listen to what the city has already at its disposal, and really work on how we can bring those resources back into those neighborhoods," Mitchell said.

"The answer can't be just downstream making arrests. The answer is going upstream, preventing people from being and having these guns in the hands of our children in the first place," Adams said.

Shootings are down 10% compared to last year, but the mayor says with innocent people getting hurt, the statistics don't matter.

Meantime, state Republicans chastised Democrats for pushing a more sweeping measure than Hochul originally pitched.

Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a Bronx Democrat, rebuffed Republicans who argued the bill will inconvenience gun owners and infringe Second Amendment rights: "It is meant to be a hassle to those folks who might want to get their hands quickly on something with which they could mass murder people"

Semiautomatic rifles automatically load each bullet after firing, although firing requires pulling the trigger for each round. That makes it possible for mass murderers to kill more people in a short amount of time.

The change would largely impact areas outside New York City, which already requires permits to possess, carry and purchase any type of firearm and prohibits most applicants under 21.

Elsewhere in New York, people as young as 16 can possess long guns like rifles and shotguns without a license.

Sen. Alexis Weik, a Republican of Long Island, pointed out that an 18 year old could still travel to another state and buy a semi-automatic rifle.

Sen. Kevin Thomas, a Long Island Democrat and one of the bill's sponsors, replied, "Are you advocating for federal gun control? Because that what's needed."

New York would join a handful of states - including Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Vermont and Washington - that require buyers to be at least 21 instead of 18 to purchase some types of long guns. Similar legislation has been proposed in Utah.

California's attempt to raise the legal buying age for a semiautomatic weapons has been challenged in court.

On May 11, a U.S. Appeals court panel ruled 2-1 that the state's ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults under 21 is unconstitutional. The two judges who ruled in the majority were part of Republican President Donald Trump's wave of conservative-approved nominees that reshaped the famously liberal court.

The National Rifle Association is also challenging Florida's ban on the sale of rifles and other firearms to adults under age 21, which was passed in the wake of a 2018 shooting that killed 17 students and staff at a high school in Parkland.

Another bill set to pass in New York would require new guns to be equipped with microstamping technology, which would allow law enforcement investigators to more easily link weapons to fired bullets.

The state is also expected to pass legislation that would restrict the purchase of body armor and expand the list of people who can apply for an extreme risk protection order, a court order that can temporarily prohibit someone from purchasing or possessing a firearm if they are believed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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