Gun laws: After Parkland, what do NY officials want?
Momentum grows for ‘red flag,’ assault weapon bills
Following the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, New York officials are calling for tighter regulation of firearms. Here’s what they want to happen:
At the federal level, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer announced on Monday — following the weekend’s anti-gun marches across the country — three gun control priorities: tightened background checks, “ERPO” protection orders and an assault weapons ban. These measures echo legislation being pursued at the state level.
Background checks: Schumer backs legislation to close what anti-gun activists call the “gun show loophole” by requiring background checks for all firearm sales, including private sales at gun shows and over the internet.
According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), approximately 60 percent of gun acquisitions involve federally licensed firearm dealers (FFLs), who are required to follow laws regulating retail transfers. Transactions not involving FFLs, known as the secondary market, are exempt from the Federal requirement (for handguns) of a waiting period and criminal record check.
About two million gun sales per year were off-the-books transfers in the secondary market, according to NIJ. These include private sales between friends and family members as well as unregulated sales over the internet.
ERPO: Schumer’s second priority is to pass federal legislation that allows for protective orders to temporarily disarm individuals deemed to be a harm to themselves or to others. “Extreme Risk Protection Orders” (ERPO) also known as “red flag” orders, would authorize families and law enforcement to seek court issued orders restricting access to guns to violent people.
Twin ERPO bills (S7133/A8976) were introduced at the state level by two Brooklyn officials — Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon and Senator Brian Kavanagh — along with State Sen. Brad Hoylman (Manhattan) in January.
Nikolas Cruz, the teenager charged in the Parkland shooting, had numerous run-ins with police and had a history of violence. Despite these warning signs, there was no law that that would make him ineligible to purchase guns.
Under ERPO, if the court agrees the accused is likely to harm themselves or others, they would be required to surrender their guns, and police would be sent to search their home or apartment in order to confiscate their firearms. The complaining family member or law enforcement officials would have to provide clear documentation to back up their claims, according to the language of the bill.
On Monday, District Attorneys from the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island joined the New York ERPO Coalition, led by Kavanagh, Hoylman, Simon and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
“It is common sense: a person who engages in conduct that poses a serious threat of harm should not possess firearms. It is time that New York joins the six other states that have enacted similar legislation,” Brooklyn D.A. Eric Gonzalez said in a statement.
Assault weapons: Schumer’s third priority demands “formal debate on assault weapons” on the floor of the Senate. This demand may sound vague — and the general public’s understanding of what an assault weapon is can also be vague.
The definition of an assault weapon varies, but typically includes a semi-automatic firearm with a large capacity magazine and a pistol grip. Other features such as a flash suppressor or barrel shroud are often included. Many people think of these types of firearms, such as the AR-15, as “military-style” assault weapons. A Federal Assault Weapons ban expired in 2004.
According to the National Rifle Association and other Second Amendment rights supporters, however, semi-automatic firearms are not fully-automatic military machine guns. The military uses fully-automatic rifles, which are already regulated as “machine guns” by the National Firearms Act of 1934. Fully-automatic firearms can fire repeatedly and quickly as long as you hold down the trigger, but a semi-automatic fires only once when you pull the trigger, no matter how dangerous it looks.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also announced his support for these measures.
Support for Gun Control in Other States
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a bill raising the age to purchase guns from 18 to 21, and to allow some teachers to be armed. Rhode Island passed an ERPO law allowing guns to be taken away from people ruled to be dangerous, as have Connecticut, California, Indiana, Oregon and Washington.
In D.C. last week, Congress approved a spending package which includes “Fix NICS,” which calls for state and federal authorities to report more data to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
The Brooklyn Eagle has reached out to the NRA for comment on these bills. Check back for updates.