ALBANY, N.Y. — The state raised the age Monday from 18 to 21 for people to be able to buy semi-automatic weapons and bolstered the reporting requirements of social media companies when they are alerted to credible threats of violence.
The bills, approved by the Legislature last week, make up the most sweeping package in the nation in the wake of the shooting deaths of 19 children and two teachers on May 24 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and the mass shooting a week earlier that killed 10 at a Buffalo supermarket in a racist attack.
”It just keeps happening,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a stern speech in the Bronx Monday before signing the bills into law and urging Congress to do the same. ”Shots ring out. Flags come down, and nothing changes. Except here in New York. In New York, we are taking strong bold action.”
New York already had some of the strongest gun-control laws in the nation, which were passed in January 2013 in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 26 children and staff.
But the new laws will bolster existing ones and close what state leaders viewed as loopholes that included allowing the Buffalo shooter to slip through the state’s Red Flag statute that should have detected his racist social media rants and led to the removal of his weapons.
The Buffalo shooting, in particular, was personal to Hochul: It is her hometown.
She and other Democratic leaders who control state government called on other states to act. Some, including Democratic-led California and New Jersey, are considering strong gun laws.
“Thoughts and prayers won’t do it, but strong action will,” Hochul urged, adding in a message to members of Congress, where gun-control has stalled: “Heaven help you if you look at those images and don’t have a change of heart.”
The Red Flag law in New York will be expanded to allow more people, including health-care professionals, to file risk orders that could lead to weapons confiscations from potentially dangerous people. And it requires, rather than allows, law enforcement to seek an order if credible information is provided.
Semi-automatic rifles, which already difficult to obtain in New York, will added to the list to the weapons requiring a permit and will only be available to those over age 21.
Another bill would ban the sale of body armor to people outside law enforcement or other state-designated professions, and it will add microstamping to bullets — which can better trace their origin. Social media companies will be required to improve their policies around how they respond to hateful conduct on their platforms, as well as “maintain easily accessible mechanisms” for the public to report people.
“We will be ready to defend these laws against challenges,” Attorney General Tish James said at the news conference with Hochul and other Democratic leaders.
“The Second Amendment is not absolute.”
James’ comments come as New York awaits a U.S. Supreme Court case in the coming weeks that is expected to overturn its concealed carry ban. If the judges overturn the law, state lawmakers have already pledged to come back to the state Capitol to pass a new law that would limit those who have concealed carry permits.
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