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New York Lawmakers Raise Age to Buy Semiautomatic Rifles to 21

The state Legislature also passed a package of bills aimed at reducing the likelihood of mass shootings by tightening rules to purchase firearms and other military equipment. Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to sign the bills into law.

(TNS) — The New York legislature approved raising the legal age to buy semiautomatic rifles to 21 from 18 and passed a package of legislation aimed at reducing the likelihood of mass shootings by tightening rules to purchase firearms and other military equipment.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers said the legislation, which was passed on the final day of the session, was in response to the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. Days after the slate of bills were introduced, four people were killed in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, mass shooting by an individual using an AR-style rifle. The AR-15 law was passed 102-47. The legislation package will now go to Hochul to be signed into law.

The bills will mean that individuals who want to purchase a semiautomatic rifle will need to be 21 and have a license. They also prohibit the purchase of body armor for civilians, make threatening mass harm a crime, and add new provisions to the state’s “red flag laws,” which prevent the purchase of firearms or allow for the removal of firearms from individuals at risk of harming themselves or others.

“We cannot be satisfied by New York’s already tough gun laws,” Hochul said in a statement Thursday after the passage of the legislative package. “Shooting after shooting makes it clear that they must be even stronger to keep New Yorkers safe. This comprehensive package will close loopholes, give law enforcement the tools they need to prevent easy access to guns, and stop the sale of dangerous weapons to 18-year-olds.”

States like Illinois, Washington, Hawaii and Florida, which passed the law in response to the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, already have an age restriction on the purchase of semiautomatic rifles. California had such a law, but a federal appeals court recently ruled it unconstitutional.

Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates gun-safety measures, is backed by Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP.

Implementing a licensing regime is one of the best ways to reduce all manner of gun violence, said Daniel Webster, a Johns Hopkins University public health professor, who studies gun violence prevention. However, most jurisdictions don’t have full licensing restrictions in place.

“Most of the licensing requirements apply to handguns, not long guns,” Webster said. “The largest and most consistent protective effect against multiple forms of gun violence — mass shootings, suicides, homicides — all of those outcomes are reduced by licensing systems for firearm purchasers.”

The legislature must also acknowledge that despite passage, these laws could be subject to legal challenges. “You have to recognize that there is a risk that such a restriction could be struck down by courts,” Webster said. “Generally, they have been upheld but I do recognize there are recent opinions that make that less certain.”

New York is bracing for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that’s expected this summer on a case regarding its concealed-carry licensing process. The court is expected to rule that the state’s discretion over who can obtain concealed-carry permits is too broad and infringes on individuals’ constitutional right to bear arms outside of the home. Hochul has vowed to call a special legislative session if the court rules against the state in the gun case.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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