ALBANY, N.Y. – New Yorkers under age 21 will be prohibited from buying semiautomatic rifles under a new law signed Monday by Gov. Kathy Hochul, making the state among the first to enact a major gun control initiative following a wave of deadly mass shootings.
Hochul, a Democrat, signed 10 public safety-related bills, including one that will require microstamping in new firearms, which could help law enforcement solve gun-related crimes.
Another revised the state's “red flag” law, which allows courts to temporarily take away guns from people who might be a threat to themselves or others.
“In New York, we are taking bold, strong action. We’re tightening red flag laws to keep guns away from dangerous people,” Hochul said at a press conference in the Bronx.
New York's Legislature passed the bills last week, pushing the changes through after a pair of mass shootings involving 18-year-old gunmen using semiautomatic rifles. Ten Black people died in a racist attack on a Buffalo supermarket May 14. A Texas school shooting took the lives of 19 children and two teachers 10 days later.
The quick action in New York further illustrated the sharp divide between Republican and Democratic leaders on how to respond to gun violence.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said after the massacre of children in Uvalde that government should increase security in schools and resources for mental health, but the Republican says stricter gun laws are ineffective. Fellow Republican Gov. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee echoed similar sentiments Monday, a day after gunfire near a Chattanooga nightclub left three people dead and multiple people wounded.
In New York, most people under age 21 had already been banned from owning handguns. People age 18 and over will still be allowed to own other types of long guns, including shotguns and bolt-action rifles.
Part of New York's new law will also require all purchasers of semiautomatic rifles to get a license, something now required only for handguns.
Proposed federal legislation that would require buyers of semiautomatic weapons to be 21 is advancing in the U.S. House, but is seen as facing long odds in the Senate.
A handful of states require people to be 21 to purchase any firearms, including Florida, which raised the age for legally purchasing a rifle after a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people at a high school.
Hochul also signed a bill Monday that will restrict sales of bullet-resistant vests and armor only to people in certain professions.
The governor said New York will continue to invest in prevention of gun-related crimes by partnering with local communities and continuing to strengthen laws by putting pressure on Congress.
“Today is the start, and it’s not the end,” said Hochul. “Thoughts and prayers won’t fix this, but taking strong action will. We will do that in the name of the lives that have been lost, for the parents who will no longer see their children stepping off the school bus.”
Maysoon Khan is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Maysoon Khan on Twitter.