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Monday, June 20, 2022

Laws Range from Age Restrictions to Red-Flag Reform:

What’s in New York’s new gun laws

New York’s recently passed slate of firearm regulations change definitions, license requirements and safety standards for the state’s gun owners and gun dealers.

The package of 10 bills aims to make it more difficult for young people to obtain semiautomatic weapons, removes body armor from the consumer market in New York, and enhances Extreme Risk Protection Orders, otherwise known as red-flag laws.

Shepherded through the state Assembly and Senate by Democrats, the laws reflect some of the first legislative responses to the recent rash of deadly shootings, in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.

One of the most notable changes now signed into law by Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul is the raised age to purchase semiautomatic rifles through the requirement that anyone purchasing or taking possession of a semiautomatic rifle obtain a license to do so. People who currently own semiautomatic rifles are not required to obtain a license, but whoever they sell or gift the weapon to will need to have one. Only those 21 and older may obtain a license for that kind of weaponry. The licensing process will be about the same as the current licensing process for handguns, run by county sheriff’s offices and county court judges.

Under another part of the package, gun dealers will be held to stricter security and safety standards. Firearms must be locked in a safe at the end of every workday, ammunition must be stored separately and away from customers, the shop must have a functioning security alarm system with 24-hour, third-party monitoring, and video cameras must record the points of sale and all entrances and exits. Video from the security cameras must be maintained for two years.

Gun dealers must further restrict people younger than 18 from accessing the areas of their shop where firearms, rifles, shotguns or ammo are sold or stored, unless the minor is with a parent or guardian. Gun shop staff and owners will be required to provide annual training on gun laws, processes for documenting gun sales and transfers, and how to identify fraudulent, suspicious or potentially dangerous customers and report them. Gun store employees must also be at least 21 years old.

Another law in the package makes it illegal to buy or sell body armor to most New Yorkers, excepting law enforcement officers. The Department of State is tasked with consulting other departments in the state government and developing a list of other professions that may require use of body armor. Additionally, it is now illegal to buy or sell body armor online or over the phone — all sales must be done in person.

The Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, New York’s gun control measure passed in 2013, specified that ammunition magazines may hold no more than 10 rounds at a time. However, magazines manufactured before 1994 or sold before the SAFE Act’s enactment were grandfathered in and allowed. That is no longer the case, and those magazines must be sold or turned over to law enforcement.

The definition of a firearm has been expanded to include any weapon not already defined in state law that is designed or may be converted to expel a projectile through the use of an explosive. State law before this amendment specified firearms as pistols, rifles, shotguns or revolvers, and did not include weapons of a novel design not commonly seen.

The state’s red-flag laws, which allow district attorneys, law enforcement, school officials, roommates or family members to file Emergency Risk Protection Orders against someone they feel is a danger to themselves or others, have also been expanded. If accepted, the individual subject to the protection order will be unable to purchase a weapon and will have any firearms registered to them confiscated. An ERPO can last at most one year.

Now, health care professionals who have treated a patient within the last six months can petition for an ERPO, and judges will be required to pay special attention to any petitions for an ERPO submitted by a mental health care professional.

There are two new crimes on the books, for making a threat of mass harm, and aggravated making a threat of mass harm. Someone can be charged for making a threat of mass harm when they make a threat of inflicting serious injury or death upon a school, place of worship, business, government building or other place of assembly, and the recipients have a reasonable fear for their safety as a result. Causing a lockdown or evacuation at any of those spaces will also lead to a charge of making a threat of mass harm. This is a class B misdemeanor.

Aggravated making a threat of mass harm occurs when someone makes a threat of harm toward a public space and takes steps to make that threat a reality. This is a class A misdemeanor.

Social media companies that operate in New York will now be required to develop policies to tackle hateful content on their sites and maintain reporting systems for such content. The new legislation also creates a task force on social media and violent extremism in the attorney general’s office to look into the role social media plays in promoting or enabling domestic terrorism.

The new gun laws also request that the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services look into microstamping, a technology that would imprint a unique identifying mark onto every cartridge case expelled from a fired pistol. The technology is only applied to semiautomatic handguns, but is not available on the commercial gun market as gun manufacturers argue it is technologically improbable. This legislation requires that the division investigate whether microstamps are technologically viable. In the event the division determines microstamps are viable, every new semiautomatic handgun sold in New York will be required to have the technology built in.

California passed a similar law in 2007, and the bill has been introduced in New York’s state legislature every year since 2009. In California, however, no weapons are sold with microstamp technology — the gun manufacturing companies pulled all eligible handguns from the California market rather than comply with the law.

Law enforcement agencies will now be required to report more information to the state and federal gun databases in a more timely manner. Agencies are now required to report seized and recovered guns to the criminal gun clearinghouse, participate in the collective data sharing agreement run by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and register the make, model, caliber and serial number of all guns they take off the street into the national crime information center.

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