NY poised to raise age for semiautomatic rifles

June 2, 2022 Marina Villeneuve, Associated Press
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New York would ban the purchase or possession of a semi-automatic rifle for individuals below the age of 21 as part of a package of the Democratic-led Legislature plan to pass this week with the governor’s approval.

Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul and Democratic legislative leaders announced Tuesday that lawmakers will pass nine other bills in the wake of a shooting that killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo. Lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly plan to vote Thursday on the bills, which Hochul has said she’ll sign.

The gunmen in two recent mass shootings — the shootings in Buffalo and at a Texas elementary school shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead — legally bought the semiautomatic rifles they used after they turned 18.

People who are the age of 21 or older who want to purchase or possess a new semiautomatic rifle in New York would have to obtain a license under the bill. The legislation would take effect 90 days after it becomes law.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

New York state already requires people who are 21 or over to get a license to purchase and possess a handgun.

Currently, New York City requires permits to possess, carry and purchase long guns and any other firearms and prohibits applicants under 21.

Elsewhere in New York, people as young as 16 can possess long guns like rifles and shotguns under state law without a license.

Also outside New York City, anyone above the age of 18 can buy long guns without a license currently.

New York would join a handful of states — including Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Vermont and Washington – that require buyers to be at least 21 instead of 18 to purchase rifles or shotguns. Utah has also proposed similar legislation, while it’s unclear whether the U.S. Senate will pass such a bill.

But New York’s law could potentially face legal challenge.

On May 11, a U.S. Appeals court in California ruled 2-1 that the state’s ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults under 21 is unconstitutional. The two judges who ruled in the majority were part of Republican President Donald Trump’s wave of conservative-approved nominees that reshaped the famously liberal court.

The National Rifle Association’s lawyers hope that California ruling will jettison Florida’s ban on the sale of rifles to adults under age 21.

“The Ninth Circuit has confirmed that the Second Amendment protects young adults’ right to purchase firearms,” NRA lawyer John Parker Sweeney told a judge May 16.

The NRA is appealing a 2021 federal court ruling that upheld Florida’s ban on firearm sales to adults under 21, which was passed in the wake of the 2018 shooting that left 14 students and three staff members dead at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The Florida Attorney General’s office argues that people under 21 have long faced restrictions on the purchase and possession of firearms.

Semiautomatic rifles automatically load each bullet after firing, although firing requires pulling the trigger for each round.

Active shooters with semiautomatic rifles wound and kill twice as many people as those using weapons that don’t self-load, although chances of dying if hit in either type of assault are the same, according to a 2018 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Other bills set to pass in New York include requiring social media networks to come up with policies for responding to hateful conduct on their platforms, expand the definition of a firearm in state criminal law to include firearms modified to be shot from an arm brace.

New York would also require microstamping for new guns, make threatening mass harm a crime, restrict the purchase of body armor and expand the list of people who can apply for an extreme risk protection order, a court order that prohibits a specific person from purchases or possessing a firearm under the state’s Red Flag law.

Nick Langworthy, chair of the state’s GOP, said he opposes the bills for failing to address mental health, school security and crime.

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