NY to raise the age to buy AR-15 guns to 21

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 June 2022 at 8:58 am

Sale of body armor will be limited and must be purchased in person

The state Legislature approved legislation on Thursday that raises the age to legally buy an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to 21.

That weapon was used by an 18-year-old to kill 10 people on May 14 at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo and also in the slaughter of 21 people by an 18-year-old at an elementary school on May 24 in Uvalde, Texas.

“This package of legislation will strengthen laws that we have on the books, help authorities better communicate with our federal partners about gun violence, work to address the role social media plays in violence and acts of domestic terrorism, and more,” said Carl Heastie, State Assembly speaker. “The Assembly Majority will continue working to end the scourge of gun violence so no New Yorker needs to fear going to school or to the grocery store or to their place of worship.”

Heastie said the legislation will strengthen the 2019 Red Flag law by expanding those who can file an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) to include health care professionals who have examined the individual within the last six months.

It will also require police and district attorneys to file ERPO petitions upon credible information that an individual is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to themself or others, and possesses or has access to firearms.

Besides raising the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle to 21, the legislation will require a firearms license to make that purchase.

The new laws will ban online sales of body armor, such as that worn by the shooter in Buffalo. Body armor sales will be limited to law enforcement and other professions designated by the Department of State. The sale of body vests will also need to be completed in person.

“Just last night a deadly semiautomatic weapon was once again used to mercilessly kill innocent civilians, this time at a medical facility in Oklahoma,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement on Thursday night. “It was a scene all too familiar in this country, one we’ve seen everywhere from Uvalde, to Sandy Hook, to Parkland, to my hometown of Buffalo. We cannot keep living like this.”

Hochul said the Buffalo mass shooting shows the needs to make New York’s already tough gun laws even stronger.

“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,” she said. “Even as we take action to protect New Yorkers, we recognize that this is a nationwide problem. I once again urge Congress to seize this moment and pass meaningful gun violence prevention measures. We have no time to waste.”

The new legislation will require firearm manufacturers to use “microstamping’ technologies that would imprint a distinct mark on bullet casings. That will make it easier to solve gun crimes, legislators said.

Another new law also creates a new “Office of Social Media and Violent Extremism” within the state Attorney General’s office. The state will require social media networks to provide a clear and concise policy regarding how they would respond to incidents of hateful conduct on their platform and maintain easily accessible mechanisms for reporting hateful conduct on those platforms.

The Legislature is establishing two new crimes for threats to cause “mass harm.” The first is “making a threat of mass harm” as a class B misdemeanor. This is when an individual threatens to inflict or cause serious physical injury or death at a school, place of worship, business, government building or other place of assembly.

A second crime is “aggravated making a threat of mass harm,” or when making the threat and overt acts to further the threat, as a class A misdemeanor.

State Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt issued the following statement, saying the legislation doesn’t address the underlying issues of violence:

“Recent heartbreaking tragedies have left all of us mourning. As public officials, we want to put an end to these despicable acts of violence, and to keep our children, families and communities safe and free from harm.

“Unfortunately, Albany Democrats are choosing to go after the rights of law-abiding citizens, rather than the criminals who commit horrific acts of violence. We cannot stop the violence in our state without addressing the underlying issues.

“That is why I have worked with my colleagues to introduce our ‘Safer NY Plan’, an extensive legislative package focused on preventing targeted violence against New Yorkers. This plan will make our schools safer, provide necessary investments in our mental health system and strengthen penalties for violent criminals.

“New York already has the strictest gun laws in the country. I will not accept passing more laws that fail to address the source of the problem as the only solution. I encourage my colleagues to put politics aside and work with us on policies that will stop preventable violence and make New York State safer.”