"New York has always been a national model for sensible guns laws and in particular the Assembly Majority is proud of our legacy in fighting for common sense legislation to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous or unstable individuals," Speaker Heastie said. "These bills are an important step in our continuing effort to address the root causes of gun violence in our communities. We will continue fighting to ensure that we have the strongest and smartest laws possible to keep citizens and communities safe."
"We need aggressive legislation to ensure that firearms do not fall into the hands of people who are intent on causing harm," said Assemblymember Joseph Lentol, chair of the Codes Committee. "Today's bills will help do that. The Assembly majority is committed to keeping weapons suited for war off the streets and out of the hands of people who have demonstrated they are a threat."
Keeping Guns Out of the Hands of Individuals Who Pose a Serious Risk
The Assembly plans to pass legislation that would establish the ability of a court to issue a restraining order, known as an "extreme risk protection order," prohibiting a person who is a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing a firearm for up to one year (A.8976-B, Simon). The petitioner, who could be a family member or law enforcement officer, would be required to file a sworn application describing the circumstances and justification for the request. Following a hearing, the court could grant the order if there is a finding that there is reasonable cause to believe the individual in question is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to him or herself or others. In emergency circumstances, the court would also be authorized to issue a temporary order restricting access to firearms pending a final hearing.
Under the existing appeals procedure provided in the civil practice laws and rules, individuals would be permitted to appeal a court's decision to issue an extreme risk protection order. They would also be entitled to submit a request, at any time while the order is in place, for a hearing to discontinue the order based on a change of circumstances and a showing that the he or she no longer poses a danger.
"Too often, we are able to see the warning signs that an individual close to us poses a risk of serious harm, but lack a mechanism to prevent unthinkable tragedies such as interpersonal gun violence or suicide" said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. "This legislation empowers families and law enforcement to help prevent these needless gun tragedies by applying to a court to temporarily restrict an individual's access to firearms."
Ensuring Comprehensive Background Checks
Another measure the Assembly intends to pass would establish a waiting period of 10 days before a gun may be delivered to a purchaser who has not cleared a background check (A.2406, 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 one of three messages - "proceed," "denied" or "delayed." The dealer must deny the sale if the NICS background check determines the buyer is a prohibited purchaser and responds with a "denied" message. However, if the response is "delayed," the dealer may nonetheless complete the sale after three business days. 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. The additional waiting period provided for in the legislation would help ensure that only persons who have cleared a background check are able to purchase firearms.
"It is all too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns," said Assemblymember Amy Paulin. "My bill would help rectify that here in New York State. Instituting a longer waiting period would help ensure that prohibited persons cannot buy a firearm, rifle or shotgun in New York without impinging on the right of law-abiding individuals to do so."
The Assembly also plans to take up the Domestic Violence Escalation Prevention Act that would prevent domestic violence abusers from having access to weapons by prohibiting an individual that has been convicted of a domestic violence crime from purchasing or possessing a firearm (A.5025, O'Donnell).
"We know that 54 percent of female homicides are committed with a firearm, and two thirds of all women killed with firearms are killed by their male partners," said Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell. "My bill would prohibit domestic violence perpetrators from lawfully possessing a firearm, help protect women and reduce the number of domestic violence incidents that end in fatality through the use of a gun."
Another measure would require out of state citizens who also have homes in New York and apply for a firearm license to waive the confidentiality of their home state mental illness records in order to allow New York to review those records when considering a firearm license application (A.9978, Hunter).
"If a person wants to obtain a firearm license in New York, they should have to prove they are fit to do so by New York's standards," said Assemblymember Pamela Hunter. "My bill will close a loophole in our laws which keeps law enforcement from checking mental health records for people who live in other states, but have residences here in New York, while conducting background checks."
Banning Bump Stocks
The horrible tragedy in Las Vegas laid bare the tragic toll that weak guns laws have on innocent citizens. So-called bump stocks that essentially convert semi-automatic weapons to machine guns have no place in our society.
The Assembly's package of bills would prohibit the possession, manufacture, transport, shipment and sale of devices that accelerate the firing rate of firearms so they operate in the same manner as machine guns, including trigger cranks and bump-fire devices (A.9958, 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.
"We know that last year in Las Vegas, 500 bullets were fired in under a minute, killing dozens and injuring hundreds," said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy. "Since congress is incapable of acting, we in the Assembly are taking steps to ensure that the item that enabled that tragedy is banned, to not only possess it, but also to use, manufacture or sell. There is no reason for anyone to have a device that is capable of turning an otherwise legal firearm into a machine gun."
Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said, "We are grateful to have gun violence prevention champions taking the lead in the New York State Assembly. In the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, our lawmakers here in New York have stepped forward once again to prevent senseless tragedies. This package of common sense legislation will close gaps in our state law and prevent individuals who are dangerous to themselves and others from accessing guns. Now, perhaps more than ever, New Yorkers - including our children - recognize that reasonable gun safety laws protect our families and our communities. It is time for the New York State Senate to follow the Assembly's leadership and pass these bills to save lives."
Nico Bocour, State Legislative Director, Giffords said, "New York has leaders that understand how the gun violence crisis continues to hurt the people they represent. We applaud the New York Assembly for not wavering and passing a gun safety package that can cement New York's position as a leader in passing legislation to save lives. These innovative measures will protect New York families and communities from gun violence by keeping guns away from those at risk of harming themselves or others and out of the hands of domestic abusers. While Congress refuses to act, states like New York understand the importance of showing courage - and acting. We urge the Senate to follow suit and pass these bills."
June Rubin, volunteer co-leader with the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said, "We applaud Speaker Heastie and all Assemblymembers for supporting this gun-sense legislative package. It is essential that we make it possible for families and law enforcement to petitions courts to temporarily suspend a person's access to firearms if they are a danger to themselves or others. In addition, our state should prohibit bump stocks and establish a firearms research center in order to study ways to prevent gun violence. We are so grateful to our state Assembly Democrats for introducing these bills and we urge lawmakers to pass them quickly."