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Hochul Signs a Raft of Gun Laws

Wed, 06/08/2022 - 18:58
In the Bronx on Monday, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed new gun legislation into law, including raising the age to purchase semiautomatic weapons to 21.
Don Pollard, Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a package of 10 bills aimed at reducing gun violence on Monday, three weeks after a mass shooting at a supermarket in her hometown of Buffalo left 10 people dead and three others wounded.

Meanwhile, one candidate hoping to challenge her in the Nov. 8 general election, Representative Lee Zeldin of New York’s First Congressional District, said at a campaign event last month that a raft of laws regulating possession of guns should be overturned.

The self-described white supremacist who allegedly carried out the May 14 attack at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo is 18 years old. He wore body armor during his rampage. The alleged perpetrator of another mass shooting just 10 days later at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., in which 19 children and two adults were murdered, had just turned 18 when he bought two firearms.

The bills signed by the governor on Monday ban the sale of semiautomatic rifles to anyone under 21 by requiring a license, and prohibit the purchase of body armor by anyone not engaged in an eligible profession. They strengthen the state’s red flag law, which prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from buying or possessing any kind of firearm, by expanding the list of people who can file for extreme risk protection orders and requiring law enforcement to file such orders under a specified set of circumstances.

The bills also make threatening mass harm a crime; require microstamping — the imprinting of a unique marking on the bullet casing of a firearm — for new semiautomatic handguns; enhance information sharing among state, local, and federal agencies when guns are used in crimes and strengthen requirements for gun dealers related to recordkeeping and safeguarding of inventory; close a 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.

“Gun violence is an epidemic that is tearing our country apart,” the governor said in a statement on Monday. “Thoughts and prayers won’t fix this, but taking strong action will.”

Mr. Zeldin, who is serving his fourth term in Congress, announced his intention to seek the nomination for governor of New York last year. Last month, Spectrum News NY1 broadcast video footage it had obtained of Mr. Zeldin at a campaign appearance. In it, he touts his “A” rating from the National Rifle Association before telling the gathering that the state’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, known as the SAFE Act, should be repealed and that “we should make some other changes to law.”

Regarding a case in which the United States Supreme Court is soon expected to issue a ruling as to whether the New York’s gun permit law, which requires an applicant to demonstrate “proper cause” to carry a firearm for self-defense, violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution, Mr. Zeldin told the gathering that the court “needs to overturn New York State’s concealed carry law. You, again, should not have your right taken away by the government,” he said to cheers. 

“I oppose gun-free zones,” he continued. “They’re boneheaded and provide a target for the criminal.” There should be no red flag laws, he said. “I mean, it’s a very slippery slope that could be targeting you law-abiding gun owners.”

He also spoke in support of “stand your ground” laws, which authorize people to use deadly force when they reasonably believe it necessary to defend themselves. “If someone comes and forces you to defend yourself,” he said, “the government shouldn’t be forcing you to run away.”

The primary election for governor is on June 28. In an average of polls of likely voters conducted in March and May, the website RealClearPolitics puts Governor Hochul comfortably ahead of two rivals for the Democratic Party’s nomination, Representative Tom Suozzi and Jumaane Williams, the New York City public advocate. Ms. Hochul was at 48.5 percent versus Mr. Suozzi’s 11.5 percent and Mr. Williams’s 9.5 percent.

On the Republican side, RealClearPolitics cited polls of likely voters also conducted in March and May, and Mr. Zeldin led in both, with 26 percent in the more recent poll. In that poll, Andrew Giuliani, the son of the former mayor of New York City, had 18 percent. Rob Astorino, a former Westchester County executive and the Republican Party’s 2014 nominee for governor, stood at 16 percent, and Harry Wilson, a businessman who served in the Obama administration, was at 8 percent. Three other candidates polled in the low single digits.

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