A sweeping gun control package is set to pass in the coming days in New York following a pair of mass shootings that have rocked the nation, Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers on Tuesday announced.
At the centerpiece of the plan is a bill that would require licenses for semiautomatic rifles going forward and that licenseholders be at least 21 years of age.
Lawmakers are also set to tighten the existing red flag law, which requires guns be kept away from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. The microstamping of new firearms will also be required as part of the agreement.
The measures are part of a 10-bill package of gun control bills, being put before lawmakers after two mass shootings in the course of 10 days in May: A shooter killed 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket, followed by the killing of 19 children and two teachers an elementary school in Texas.
Supporters of stricter gun control laws celebrated the agreement as a major step toward keeping New Yorkers safer. But opponents insisted the measures would have no beneficial effect, and urged lawmakers to instead focus their efforts on why people commit mass murders.
The bills are expected to be finalized by Thursday, the final day of the legislative session. If approved, the measures will be among the most significant package of gun control measures since the approval of the SAFE Act in 2013.
"Within the last month, two horrific mass shootings in Buffalo and in Texas have rattled this nation to our core and shed a new light on the urgent need for action to prevent future tragedies," Hochul said. "New York already has some of the toughest gun laws in the country but clearly we need to make them even stronger. New Yorkers deserve to feel safe in schools, in grocery stores, in movie theaters, in shopping malls, and on our streets -- and we must do everything in our power to protect them."
In Buffalo, the 18-year-old alleged shooter used an AR-15-style rifle. In Texas, an 18-year-old man is alleged to have used a handgun and rifle.
Hochul last week urged lawmakers to raise the age for purchasing AR-15-style weapons in New York following the second shooting. She has also urged better monitoring of social media platforms in order to curtail a possible attack and mass shooting.
On the national level, President Joe Biden has urged Congress to take up new gun control measures, but those efforts have stalled in Washington.
"The federal government, if we left it to them, we wouldn't be able to agree whether the sun rises tomorrow," said state Sen. Kevin Thomas, a Long Island Democrat who is sponsoring the changes to have semiautomatic rifles licensed. "That's why the states need to step up. These are states rights, we need to step up for our citizens here."
Buffalo Democratic Sen. Sean Ryan pointed to a suite of changes that are needed to prevent mass shootings, including restricting access to firearms as well as stronger background checks.
"There's so much to do on this, but we has a society just haven't done a lot on it at all," he said. "And we go from the Buffalo tragedy to the Texas tragedy."
But Republicans, including state party Chairman Nick Langworthy, say the changes won't have a positive effect on public safety.
"The SAFE Act and the willingness to break the law didn't stop the maniac, the sick, deranged lunatic, from coming to Buffalo and killing people because they didn't look like him," he said. "More laws are not the solution."
Instead of new gun laws, Republican candidate for governor Andrew Giuliani called for more resources are needed for law enforcement.
"I would love to see the laws that are on the books be executed the right ways before we look at ways of impeding on our Second Amendment rights," he said.