Six Months After Buffalo Shooting: Gunman Pleads Guilty, Illegal Guns on 2023 Agenda

Legislative Gazette photos by Michaela Atiae

Payton Gendron, the teenage gunman who killed 10 people in the horrific Buffalo Tops Market shooting on May 14, 2022, pleaded guilty to state charges, including multiple counts of first-degree murder and domestic terrorism motivated by hate. 

In the wake of the racially motivated shooting, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a ten-bill package on June 6 to close “critical gun law loopholes,” like legislation S.9456/A.10503, which bars anyone under 21 without a license from purchasing semi automatic rifles, and legislation S.9407-B/A.10497, which prohibits the purchase of body armor with the exception of those in specific professions. 

On July 1, the state Legislature and Hochul adopted another set of gun control laws known as the Concealed Carry Improvement Act to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen.

Hochul called the court’s decision “reckless” for overturning New York’s century old restrictions on who can carry concealed weapons.

That legislative package established that private property owners and business owners must expressly allow a person to possess a firearm, rifle, or shotgun on their property. This change made “no carry” the default for private property and businesses, unless the owners explicitly state otherwise with a public sign.

New York will also be conducting its own background checks for firearms and running regular checks on license holders for criminal convictions. These will include data from state-owned and local-owned records and databases not currently used by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System maintained by the FBI. The legislation also requires background checks for ammunition sales and creates a statewide license and ammunition database.

Furthermore, gun owners are now prohibited from leaving a gun in their car unless it is stored in a lockbox. Additionally,  state law previously required guns be stored safely in a home if someone under 16 resides there, but the new law requires guns to be locked away in every home where someone under 18 resides.

Finally, the Concealed Carry Improvement Act amended the state law to ban the type of hard body armor used by the suspect in the Buffalo shooting.

Now, New York is ranked #3 nationwide for strongest gun laws and the fifth-lowest rate of gun violence, behind California and Hawaii. Some of the legislation that contributes to the strictness of New York’s gun laws are microstamping requirements, extreme risk protection orders known as red flag laws, minimum age requirements to buy most firearms, ghost gun laws and universal background checks. 

On the six-month anniversary of the Buffalo shooting, November 14, Hochul said, “I do want to say that, after the six months, I would say one reflection is powerful. One is that we are stronger than we were before.”

“This tragedy was something we had to deal with in the moment, but if you think about the six months we just came through, it is a true statement that our spirits were not broken. Our spirits were, in fact, lifted up.”

As part of her 2023 agenda, the governor recently hinted at new proposals to address and restrict the flow of illegal weapons into the state through “a very comprehensive plan,” likely to be introduced during her 2023 State of the State proposals. 

According to Spectrum News, during a recent stop in Gloversville, the governor said, “I’m going to be going back into the next session of the Legislature with a whole approach dealing with public safety and the interdiction of illegal guns. It’s about getting the illegal guns to stop the flow of them.” 

Photo by Mike Groll, Office of the Governor
January 26, 2022 – East Greenbush, NY – Governor Kathy Hochul delivers remarks at the first meeting of the Interstate Task Force on Illegal Guns in East Greenbush.

Hochul is expected to unveil more of her gun control plan when she delivers her State of the State address in January 2023.

Meanwhile, recent challenges to some of these new gun laws have been heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. 

According to the most recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Glenn Suddaby on November 7, the plaintiffs are making three claims against the defendants, including Gov. Hochul, Acting State Police Superintendent Steven Nigrelli, and various sheriffs, police chiefs and district attorneys across New York state. 

The plaintiffs argue that the Concealed Carry Improvement Act violates the Second Amendment, the First Amendment and the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

The lawsuit challenges several aspects of the revised law, including its definition of “good moral character,” the requirement that the applicant disclose a list of his or her “former and current social media accounts . . . from the past three years to confirm the information regarding applicant’s character and conduct as required [above],” and the requirement that the applicant list the names and contact information of family members and cohabitants.

Plaintiffs also challenged a requirement that the applicant list at least four “character references” who can attest to the applicant’s “good moral character,” an in-person interview by the licensing officer; the minimum 16-hours of in-person firearm training and two-hours of “live-fire” firearm training, the law’s definition of “sensitive locations,” and the definition of “restricted locations.”

Suddaby’s November 7 ruling will allow the legal challenge to move forward through the courts.

“Plaintiffs have made a strong showing that they will likely experience irreparable harm if the preliminary injunction is not issued for the reasons stated in their motion papers and Declarations,” Suddaby wrote in his ruling.