Assembly to Pass Common Sense Legislation To Protect New Yorkers from Gun Violence

Speaker Carl Heastie announced the Assembly today will pass legislation to prevent and reduce gun violence in New York State. The legislative package includes bills that have passed the Assembly in past years, including keeping guns out of the hands of those that have demonstrated they pose a risk, banning bump stocks and creating a buyback program for illegal guns.

“In 2017 alone, almost 40,000 people were killed by a gun in the U.S., 772 of those happened here in New York. I refuse to accept that as the cost of unfettered access to guns,” Speaker Heastie said. “The Assembly Majority has a long history of fighting to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals. And today, along with our Senate colleagues, we will pass a package of common sense reforms to address the root causes of gun violence in our communities, and make New York a safer place for everyone.”

“The legislation we pass today will help keep weapons suited for war off the streets and out of the hands of people who are a threat to themselves and others,” Codes Committee Chair Joseph Lentol said. “I am proud of the comprehensive set of bills that address everything from background checks to bump stocks and the creation of a gun buyback program.”

The Red Flag Bill

Today’s legislative package includes the “Red Flag Bill,” which would allow a court to issue an extreme risk protection order (ERPO), prohibiting a person who is determined to be a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing a firearm for up to one year (A.2689, Simon). The petitioner, who could be a family member, law enforcement officer or school administrator, would be required to file a sworn application describing the circumstances and justification for the request. Following an initial hearing, the court may grant a temporary order if there is reasonable cause to believe the individual is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to him or herself or others. At a subsequent hearing, the court may issue a final order which would last for one year.

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon said, “Too often, we are able to see the warning signs that an individual close to us poses a risk of serious harm to themselves or to others, but lack a mechanism to prevent unthinkable tragedies such as interpersonal gun violence or suicide. This legislation will give family members, law enforcement, and certain school personnel the tools they need to prevent these kinds of tragedies before they happen. Today, we took a stand with the brave students and families in New York, Parkland, Florida and across the country who are calling on us to act to prevent gun violence.”

Ensuring Background Checks

Two measures included in today’s legislative package would ensure comprehensive background checks for gun owners in New York State.

The first measure would establish a waiting period of up to  30 days before a gun can be sold to an individual who has not cleared a background check (A.2690, Paulin). Under current federal law, gun dealers must conduct a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before selling a firearm. The NICS system responds with “proceed,” “denied” or “delayed.” While the vast majority of background checks are immediately marked “proceed” or “denied”, transactions which receive a “delayed” response must be completed after three business days if no additional “denied” response is received. In these cases, the FBI continues to investigate whether the person is an eligible purchaser beyond the three day period even though the person has likely already been sold the firearm.

According to the FBI, more than 15,000 gun sales went forward between 2010 and 2014 to individuals who were prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm because the determination whether to deny or proceed could not be made within three business days.

“Despite all our progress, it is still simply too easy for guns to fall into the wrong hands,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin. “My bill will build on our strong gun laws by ensuring that law enforcement has sufficient time to complete a background check investigation, without impinging on the rights of law-abiding citizens. Giving law enforcement time to do its job to keep guns out of the wrong hands ought to be an issue we can all be united around.”

The second background check measure would require out of state citizens who have homes in New York and apply for a firearm license to waive the confidentiality of their home state mental illness records (A.1213, Hunter). This would allow New York State law enforcement to review those records when considering a firearm license application in the same manner that they review the New York mental health records of applicants.

“If you want to own a gun in New York State, you should have to prove that you are fit to do so by New York’s standards,” Assemblymember Pamela Hunter said. “Closing this loophole will allow our law enforcement officers to fully do their job, and help keep our friends and neighbors safe from gun violence.”

Keeping Our Children Safe

Also included in today’s package is a bill that would prohibit a school administrator from arming teachers or other school employees in K-12 schools in New York State (A.1715-A, Griffin). Under current law, guns are prohibited on school grounds unless authorized by a school administrator. Today’s bill would ban administrators from allowing guns in schools with the exception of school resource officers, law enforcement or security guards.

“In order to address the scourge of gun violence in our schools, it is critical that we enact common sense gun legislation while simultaneously increasing access to mental health treatment. A proactive approach is necessary to save lives and reduce the detrimental impact the imminent threat of violence has on our children,” said Assemblymember Judy Griffin. “Teachers are trained to educate students not to be armed with firearms to protect them. Arming educators is not a viable solution since it increases the risk of accidental injury or death while creating an atmosphere of fear and stress.”

Getting Illegal Guns & Modifications Off the Street

In 2017, bump stocks were used in a mass shooting in Las Vegas to fire 500 bullets in under a minute. Legislation included in today’s package would prohibit the possession, manufacture, transport, shipment and sale of devices like the bump stock that accelerate the firing rate of firearms so they operate in a similar manner as machine guns. Banned devices include trigger cranks and other rapid-fire modification devices (A.2684, Fahy). Under current New York State law, attaching such a device to a firearm is illegal because once attached, the weapon is considered a machine gun. However, there is no restriction on the sale or possession of bump stocks or other similar devices that are not attached to a firearm.

“Law enforcement has been resoundingly clear – there is no legitimate reason for any individual to possess a device that is capable of turning a legal, semiautomatic firearm into a fully-functioning machine gun,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy. “Yet, the Federal Department of Justice estimates that 520,000 bump stocks have been sold just since 2010. Although it is technically illegal to attach a bump stock to a firearm in New York, there is no law that prohibits the manufacturing, sale, possession, or transport of these devices. My legislation would close this dangerous loophole and help prevent tragedies like the one that took place in Las Vegas. I thank Speaker Heastie for supporting and moving this legislation.”

The legislative package would also create the “Municipal Gun Buyback Program” (A.2685, Rosenthal). The program, which would be administered by the New York State Police, would allow individuals to report and turn in illegal firearms. Those participating would be immune from certain criminal possession charges, and would be able to collect a monetary reward.

“Every gun we get off the streets, is a gun that cannot be used to commit a crime. Gun buyback programs are proven to be effective methods of keeping communities safe from gun crimes by encouraging individuals to relinquish their guns in anonymity and without the fear of prosecution. It is vital that the state expand this successful model,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal. “Passage of this legislation will help New York State to build on the nation-leading gun safety work we have already accomplished.”

“Today New York’s lawmakers demonstrated true leadership by passing sensible, life-saving measures to prevent gun violence across our state,” said Rebecca Fischer, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. “Our leaders understand that New Yorkers need more than condolences to keep our neighborhoods, homes, and schools safe. We need to keep guns away from people in crisis, not guns in our classrooms. We applaud the Majority Leader and Speaker, the bill sponsors and our broad coalition fighting to save lives. Together, we helped push these bills across the finish line.”

“Gun violence is a public safety threat that causes tragedies in communities across New York every single day,” said Nico Bocour, state legislative director at Giffords. “In recent years, leaders in New York have understood that the best way to address this epidemic is by passing stronger gun safety laws. This trailblazing legacy continues today as lawmakers show they are determined to continue passing laws that protect the lives of all New Yorkers. We are pleased to see this robust package introduced in the New York Assembly. Thanks to the courage of legislators and the sponsors of these bills who are willing to take on gun violence, we can help build a brighter future for New York and we look forward to joining the fight to turn these bills into laws.”

Dakota Jablon, Deputy Legislative Director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said, “We are pleased that New York is taking a comprehensive approach to gun violence prevention. In particular, we applaud the introduction of legislation to create an extreme risk protection order. The extreme risk protection order is an evidence-based intervention that has saved lives in states across the country, and we are confident it will be an effective tool for families and law enforcement in New York. We urge policymakers to pass this important legislation with bipartisan support.”

Kris Brown, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “Thanks to the ongoing efforts of New York's elected officials, residents of the state are already protected by some of the country's strongest gun safety laws. But gun violence is a complex epidemic that requires a multi-faceted policy response, and we're pleased to see the state legislature continue pushing for further action. From expanding Brady Background Checks to enacting Extreme Risk Protection Orders, this is a comprehensive and ambitious package that will serve as a model for the nation. We're proud to support these important bills, and we look forward to the governor signing them into law as soon as possible.”

Dr. Thomas Madejski, President of the Medical Society of the State of New York, said, “Today’s gun safety package contains a number of important measures supported by the medical community. Establishing ‘red flag’ laws, prohibiting the sale of so-called ‘bump stocks’, and extending the waiting period to purchase firearms are all common sense reforms that have been supported by MSSNY as ways to reduce the risk of firearms coming into the hands of those who present a risk to themselves or others. We thank the Senate and Assembly leadership, as well as Governor Cuomo, for advancing these important measures. “

Erin DaCosta, Volunteer Leader with the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said, “We are thrilled that this gun safety package is getting an early vote. Seeing this life saving legislation move forward gives me hope that strong leadership can result in real, common sense solutions against gun violence. Thank you Senate and Assembly leadership and to all of the legislators and who worked to move this forward and Governor Cuomo for his leadership.”

Wendy Burch, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-New York State (NAMI-NYS), said, “A central part of the mission of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-New York State (NAMI-NYS) is reducing suicide. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 60% of firearm deaths are attributed to suicide. This is why NAMI-NYS urges New York State to enact Extreme Risk Protection Orders to remove guns from the homes of people with mental illness during times of crisis. All too often, the concerns of families are not taken into account despite the fact that they regularly have more insight on their loved one’s condition than the individual, especially during times of crisis. This would be one of the few laws that empower families and caregivers to step in and help their loved ones during their most vulnerable times. We are grateful to Senator Brian Kavanagh, for his leadership on this life-saving initiative and his consistent championing of this issue.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, Prosecutors Against Gun Violence Co-Chairs, said, “Today New York moves several steps closer to becoming the national model for reducing gun deaths that it really ought to be. Extreme Risk Protection Orders in particular are saving lives in states with active PAGV members like California and Oregon, and we are gratified that New York families and law enforcement could soon be similarly empowered to disarm domestic abusers and people in mental health crisis. As the co-founders of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, we applaud the pursuit of these strong, sensible and fair gun violence prevention laws, and we commend Governor Cuomo, legislative leaders and sponsors, and gun violence survivors who are working together to get this done.”

Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said, “I am pleased that these new gun violence prevention measures for which I have advocated are now the law in New York. There has been far too much tragedy in the Bronx caused by illegal guns, and guns in the hands of people who are likely to harm themselves and others. Extreme Risk Protection Orders will help save lives in New York. And I welcome the support for Gun Buyback programs. My office has held two such events in the past three years and the community is an eager partner in turning in illegal firearms. I am proud that New York continues to be in the forefront against gun violence and is one of the top states with the strictest and most sensible gun reform laws in this country.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said “For years we have waited for common sense gun safety measures to pass in Albany. Every session we would lobby for bills that would prevent gun violence and make our communities safer. And every year we would leave empty-handed with the hope that things would change in the next legislative session. Thankfully that day has come and I am extremely thankful to our legislators for giving prosecutors the tools we need to get dangerous weapons off our streets on this historic day.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, “I commend the New York State Senate and Assembly for passing a common sense package of gun violence prevention legislation that will save lives and make New York a safer place for all residents. Thanks to Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senator Brian Kavanagh, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, and all of the advocates, for their leadership on this issue, especially on Extreme Risk Protection Orders, an important tool to keep guns out of the hands of those determined to pose a risk to themselves or others.”

Jeffrey Oestreicher MD & Nina Agrawal MD, Chairs for Committee on Gun Violence Prevention, NYSAAP, said, “The 5,000 members of the NYS American Academy of Pediatrics are passionate about Gun Safety. We are delighted to congratulate the NYS Legislature for passing Gun Safety legislation that is lifesaving and designed to prevent avoidable firearm tragedies in children. Guns are now the third leading cause of death among US children and the second leading cause of trauma or injury-related death. In conjunction with other laws passed today, including ERPO, an evidence-based policy shown to decrease pediatric firearm suicide, our elected officials took another enormous step today in making NY state a beacon for protecting children from gun violence.”

Richard Aborn, President of the Citizens Crime Commission, said, “The State of New York has long been a leader in the fight against gun violence because it recognizes the need to respond swiftly and comprehensively. While states lack the power to develop the sort of national response so desperately needed from Congress, state legislation has been proven over and over again to be an effective deterrent against gun violence. The deadly toll extracted by guns can tolerate no delay in reacting – lives are literally at stake - and the complexities of gun violence demand a comprehensive approach. This package of bills addresses both of these requirements demonstrating once again that both the governor and legislative leadership have the will and determination to act to defend New Yorkers.”

Judith Cutchin, RN, New York State Nurses Association Board Member and President of NYSNA's NYC Health and Hospitals/Mayorals Executive Council said, “These six measures combine in different ways to protect the public from gun violence. They are common-sense legislative proposals that we should all embrace, allowing us to continue to make progress in gun safety policy. As nurses, we see the strong connection between these proposed laws and the safety and health of the public. They are a critical move forward.”