New law gives FBI more time to investigate New York gun buyers, if necessary

Photo courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
A law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week gives the FBI more time to investigate gun sales to individuals who may be disqualified from owning a firearm. Currently, New York state law forces gun buyers to wait up to three days for a response. The new law would extend the waiting period to 30 days.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on signed two new gun control laws on Monday. One extends the waiting period for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm. The new law gives law enforcement up to 30 days to investigate whether a person is eligible to own a firearm.

The other new law prohibits the possession, manufacture, transport and sale of “bump stocks” and other aftermarket devices that accelerate the firing rate of rifles and shotguns.

Current federal law requires all gun dealers to conduct a National Instant Criminal Background Check System background check on a potential purchaser prior to selling a firearm, which immediately provides the dealer with one of three possible notifications — “proceed,” “denied,” or “delayed.”

In the case of a “delayed” response, the dealer must currently wait three days before completing the sale. The FBI may continue to investigate the individual past the three-day timeframe, but sometimes a sale to an ineligible person is already completed before the background check is completed.

Most background checks return a quick result of either “proceed” or “deny,” but in approximately 8 to 11 percent of cases, investigators require more than three days to conduct an accurate background check and will issue a “delay” result.

By extending the waiting period up to 30 days, law enforcement will have more time to complete a background check so that only those eligible to purchase and own a firearm will be able to do so.

“Common sense gun safety reform will save lives, period,” said Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, the sponsor of the Senate bill (s.2374.) “Stronger background checks will keep guns away from dangerous people.

The memo of the bill signed on Monday cites the case of Dylann Roof, who shot and killed nine people in a church in South Carolina in June of 2015. Initially, the F.B.I. delayed Roof’s purchase of the .45 caliber handgun used in the murders because a recent arrest required further investigation. However, the bureau simply ran out of time to complete a thorough background check and Roof purchased the gun immediately after the three-day waiting period expired. If Roof’s complete police record had been available to investigators, the sale of the weapon would have been denied.

“This law will build on our already strong gun laws by ensuring that law enforcement has sufficient time to complete a background check without impinging on the rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, the sponsor of the bill in the Assembly (A.2690) “According to the FBI, they just need more time to do their job to keep guns out of the wrong hands.”

“For too long gun violence has plagued communities across our nation and while the federal government turns a blind eye, New York continues leading the way forward to protect our families and our children,” Governor Cuomo said. “By signing these measures into law we are strengthening our nation-leading gun laws – banning devices whose sole purpose is to create the most bloodshed in the shortest timeframe and providing law enforcement the tools they need to stop firearms from falling into dangerous hands.”

The extended waiting time will go into effect in mid-September.

Another law signed by Cuomo this week bans aftermarket devices that speed up the firing rate of some semi-automatic weapons.

In 2017, “bump stocks” came to national attention after a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada that killed 58 people and injured 851 others. The shooter, Stephen Paddock, used an aftermarket device that harnesses the natural recoil of a rifle to bounce, or bump, the rifle against the trigger finger and fire rounds from a semi-automatic rifle in rapid succession.

The legislation signed Monday (S.2448/A.2684) will prohibit the possession, manufacture, transportation, shipment and sale of any items that accelerate the firing rate of handguns, rifles or shotguns.

“Bump stocks and other devices that allow firearms to shoot faster than any human ever could are evidently an acute danger to the public, and have already caused too many tragedies across our country,” said Sen. Luis Sepúlveda, the sponsor of the Senate bill. “As we sign this bill into law today, our thoughts are with the families of victims of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting and all others who have lost their lives due to this deadly technology.”

“Law enforcement and gun violence advocates have 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, and yet the Federal Department of Justice estimates that 520,000 bump stocks have been sold just since 2010,” said Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, the bill’s Assembly sponsor. “My legislation closes loopholes and ensures bump stocks are fully banned in New York to help prevent horrific tragedies such as the one in Las Vegas in 2017.”