ALBANY — With the latest in a long line of mass shootings coming just days apart, the latest in a long line of legislative efforts to limit future mass shootings is being mounted.
The difference is that in New York, they have a better chance at passage.
One day after the slaughter of 19 children in a Texas classroom, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday called for raising the minimum age for purchasing assault-style firearms from 18 to 21.
Last week, after 10 people were shot to death in a Buffalo supermarket, she called for a requirement that semiautomatic pistols sold in this state to be microstamping-enabled to allow for better tracing and sought the end of loopholes in regulations on sale of certain guns.
She also ordered state police to file for Extreme Risk Protection Orders of protection under the state’s Red Flag law, which bars people deemed a threat from possessing or purchasing guns.
Pushes for gun-control measures in the wake of mass shootings are often fruitless in other states and at the national level, and often countered by gun advocates calling for more guns in law-abiding citizens’ hands.
Gun Owners Of America, for example, called Wednesday for repeal of the federal Gun Free School Zones Act and authorization for teachers to carry guns.
But New York has some of the strictest gun control measures in the nation, and given the political makeup of the Legislature, additional controls have at least a chance at passage.
The famous example is the SAFE Act, a sweeping package of firearm bans and restrictions that was rushed into law less than five weeks after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Just this week, New York’s first-in-the-nation law exposing the firearms industry to civil liability for gun violence survived its first test in federal court, when a judge threw out a lawsuit by a group of firearms manufacturers and sellers.
Here’s what several state and federal legislators representing the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley said about the prospect of additional gun-control measures:
Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, D-Albany:
Fahy sponsored the landmark civil liability legislation in 2021 and is calling for additional gun control measures in 2022. “New York has led the nation on gun legislation — and in the face of more devastating mass shootings in recent weeks, we must be more vigilant than ever in helping to keep New Yorkers safe from the scourge of gun violence.”
U.S. Sen Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.:
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Gillibrand said she supports Hochul’s proposal to raise the purchase age for an assault-style weapon to 21, and is co-sponsoring Senate legislation that would do the same nationally. But her belief is that these weapons should not be available for purchase by civilians of any age. “We are the only country in the world that tolerates mass shootings at schools, stores, places of worship, a fact that is as horrific as it is devastating. The American people must demand that all our leaders act to stop these senseless killings and hold them accountable if they refuse to do so.”
Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus:
“Acts of senseless violence have become all too prevalent and we need to take meaningful action that will get at the root of the problem. Legislation to improve our mental health system is long overdue along with true community-based programs that will help with early detection. We also need to work with law enforcement to take action when warning signs are exhibited and ensure stringent laws already on the books are properly enforced. Additionally, state funding to provide armed school resource officers to keep our children safe must be a priority.”
Assemblyman Robert Smullen, R-Meco:
“The recent tragedies in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, are jarring and heartbreaking — my prayers go out to all the victims and their families. Preventing atrocities like this must be our top priority. If and when Governor Hochul introduces legislation related to public safety and firearm possession, I will give it my full consideration and review.”
Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie:
“I support all the proposals of the governor — this situation is intolerable.” Steck said, however, that New York has limitations in acting alone, as guns sold in other states are transported to New York. “One of the major things is, we need to do this nationwide. That doesn’t mean that New York shouldn’t do what New York is doing … We can’t sit fiddling around and speculating on what might be.”
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville:
“New York’s 21st District mourns the horrific loss of innocent lives in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, TX. Our hearts absolutely shatter for the families suffering unimaginable heartbreak. While Kathy Hochul continues to threaten the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding New Yorkers with unconstitutional gun control measures during the violent crime surge due to her failed Far-Left bail reform policies, I have worked in Congress to increase School Resource Officers in schools in our district and around the country. I also supported the bipartisan FIX NICS Act signed into law which ensures mental health records sharing. We need to continue to expand mental health resources in our schools and communities.”
Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie:
“While I have not yet had the chance to review many of the policies proposed in response to this tragedy, the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, have weighed heavily on my heart and the hearts of all New Yorkers. Though I will always stand up for our constitutional right to bear arms, I look forward to discussing with my Assembly colleagues what may be done to prevent senseless tragedies like this from happening again in the future, particularly in relation to bolstering the support we provide in regard to mental health.”
Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville:
“We need to take a holistic and comprehensive approach — not a political one — to protecting our most vulnerable population in school settings including my ‘Guardians for Schools’ legislation to help our school districts pay for the expense of improving school safety, and ‘Suzanne’s Law’ to increase criminal penalties for assaults and abductions on school grounds by one category higher to show that New York has zero tolerance for violent crimes committed on school grounds. We should be asking nothing less to protect our kids as we do to safeguard our legislators, staff, state officials, the media and visitors at our state Capitol, that includes providing for schools that want them with armed school resource officers, metal detectors, additional mental health screening and counseling services, security cameras, and other building modifications to improve school safety. It’s hypocritical to say you’re militarizing schools, as some of my colleagues did when this public safety legislation was brought to the floor a few years ago, when you’re providing those same security features for my colleagues in the Legislature. We should ask no less for our children.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam:
“I support any and all legislation that seeks to address the gun violence epidemic in our country, and the House has advanced with my support lifesaving measures like the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. I also believe we should reimpose the Assault Weapons Ban and limit sales of high-capacity magazines, both of which make these horrific mass killings easier to accomplish. We need a strong national red flag law that can get guns out of the hands of dangerous people in a time of crisis, and we need to examine and potentially strengthen existing red flag laws like New York’s which wasn’t able to stop the Buffalo killer. And I strongly agree with Governor Hochul that 18-year-olds, who we’ve determined aren’t mature enough to buy a beer or a cigarette should never be allowed to purchase mass killing machines. Our communities are suffering. They need more than our thoughts and prayers. They need action now, and I will work with anyone to get this done. Parents need to be able to send their kids to schools that are safe; families need to be able to go to the grocery store without fear.”