Senate Dems unveil ambitious gun control package

Legislative Gazette file photo

Senate Democrats are pushing a package of nine bills that would, among other things, restrict gun ownership for individuals who have committed hate crimes or who may be a danger to themselves or others.

The bills would also create an institute to study gun violence, extend the time frame to conduct background checks during a gun purchase, and outlaw undetectable firearms, such as those made through 3-D printing.

“We must continue to take bold steps to reduce gun violence throughout New York state by passing sensible gun safety legislation,” said Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers. “It is our responsibility to protect our communities. Enacting this common sense legislation will help save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals and banning tools to make legal guns more dangerous.”

A bill (S.7072/A.7547) sponsored by Senator Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, would add hate crimes to the list of offenses that disqualify offenders from possessing a firearm.

In New York state, crimes such as stalking and sexual assault disqualify individuals from possessing guns. There is no law that stops those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from purchasing a gun. The bill would add those convicted to the list of serious offenses that denies the right to purchase or possess a gun.

Another effort to keep dangerous individuals away from firearms are Extreme Risk Protection Orders. Another Kavanagh bill, this legislation (S.7133/A.8976-b) would allow courts to issue orders to temporarily seize or prohibit the sale of firearms to individuals who are considered a threat to themselves or others.

Supporters of the bill say it will help victims of domestic abuse and reduce suicide rates. Five other states already have similar laws in place.

Family members would be able to file petitions and take part in court hearings to state their case against potentially harmful individuals. If the judge deems the evidence to be sufficient, an order is issued that would restrict their access of firearms.

“In far too many cases of gun violence, family members or law enforcement see warning signs before the tragedy occurs but have no power to intervene,” Kavanagh said.  

The U.S. government stopped funding research into gun violence in the 1990s, says Senator Roxanne Persaud, D-Brooklyn, whose bill (S.4363/A.2977) would create a Firearm Violence Research Institute to study the causes of gun violence and develop prevention methods.

Her goal is to have the New York state continue the research that the centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped doing in 1996 in hopes of understanding why gun violence is so prevelant.

“We need to get to the root cause of gun violence in our communities,” Persaud said.

Senate Democrats also want to expand access to individual mental health records of those purchasing guns to ensure that potentially dangerous individuals do not come in contact with firearms.

Due to confidentiality rules, Authorities in New York are sometimes denied the right to view mental illness records from other states. The bill S.7605 seeks to close the out of state resident loophole.

There are certain disqualifying mental health records state police look for when and individual applies for a gun permit. Disqualifying factors can not be detected without the right to view out of state records.

“This would make as part of the licensing process.” Kavanagh said. “It would require the applicant to sign a waiver that would permit the police to view those records no matter what state they’re from and thus make sure that we are only issuing gun permits to folks who would be able to qualify under the standards of New York.”

The legislation package also highlights accountability in regard to owning and selling firearms.  

The “Children’s Weapon Accident Prevention Act” (S.3355/A.1990) was introduced by Senator Liz Krueger, D-East Side. If passed, failure to securely store a weapon to prevent death or injury unintended by the authorized owner would be a crime.

“It’s just common sense that young children should not have unsupervised access to loaded weapons,” said Krueger. “No responsible gun owner would argue that they should.”

Senate Democratic Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, D-Astoria, introduced a bill that would create more effective background checks (S.5808/A.9068). If a background check cannot be completed immediately before the purchasing of a firearm, law enforcement has three days to complete one. If the necessary background checks aren’t completed in this time, a seller is allowed to sell a gun even without approval of a background check.

This bill would extend the period from three days to 10 business days before a gun can be sold without the completion of a background check.

“What is so urgent that someone needs to have a gun in a 10-day period,” Gianaris said.

The bill will also require licensed firearm dealers to report criminal purchases of weapons and for any authorized employee to undergo background checks.

New technology such as 3-D printing has made it easier to create weapons that can’t be detected. Senator Kevin Parker’s, D-Brooklyn, bill would prohibit undetectable firearms (S.5829/A.914).

“This will send a clear message to both buyers and sellers that the irresponsible use and manufacturing of a firearm will not be tolerated in the State of New York,” Parker said.

If passed, this bill would make the sale, transporting, possession or manufacturing of a weapon that can’t be detected a Class D Felony.  

Senate Democrats stress the danger of weapon accessories and devices such as bump stocks. A bump stock is an accessory that is added to the stock of a semi automatic weapon. Once added, the attachment allows for the rifle to fire faster. Bump stocks were used in the Las Vegas shooting in 2017.

While it is illegal to use bump stocks in New York, it is legal to possess, sell and transport them. The bill (S.6902/A.8913), sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, would make it a Class D Felony to possess a bump stock or similar device.

The bill package also seeks to let victims hold manufacturers accountable for negligence. Senator Jamaal Bailey, D-Bronx, proposed a bill (S.5922) that would overturn legislation that prevents victims and families from seeking compensation from gun manufacturers who sold firearms to irresponsible individuals.

“Strong laws in New York including the Safe Act and others have saved lives,” Kavanagh said. “But we know that we have a lot more to do and this package would be a huge step forward for our state.”