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New York enacts sweeping new gun ownership restrictions

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a sweeping package of gun control bills into law Monday, calling gun violence "a disease that is tearing our nation apart."

The state legislature passed and Hochul signed into law 10 bills that will implement new restrictions on gun ownership, including raising the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle in New York from 18 to 21 years old. Democratic lawmakers claim the new gun control measures will close "loopholes" in existing laws that were exposed by the deadly mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas last month.

In addition to raising the age to purchase a rifle, lawmakers banned the sale of bulletproof armor for anyone not in law enforcement, strengthened the state's red flag law to take guns away from mentally unstable people, and introduced new requirements for social media companies to monitor and report "hateful conduct" on their platforms.

"Gun violence is an epidemic that is tearing our country apart. Thoughts and prayers won't fix this, but taking strong action will," Hochul said in a statement.

"I am proud to sign a comprehensive bill package that prohibits the sale of semiautomatic weapons to people under 21, bans body armor sales outside of people in select professions, closes critical gun law loopholes and strengthens our Red Flag Law to keep guns away from dangerous people—new measures that I believe will save lives," she added.

Several of the new laws are specific responses to the deadly mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, where an 18-year-old gunman with racist motivations allegedly shot and killed 10 black people and wounded three others.

The firearms used in the deadly shooting were purchased legally. Now the law prohibits an 18-year-old from purchasing a rifle. "No 18-year-old can walk in on their birthday and walk out with an AR-15," Hochul told reporters Monday. "Those days are over."

Under the strengthened red flag law, law enforcement is now required to seek an order from a judge to seize the weapons of anyone they believe may pose a threat to themselves or others. The alleged shooter threatened to commit a murder-suicide at his high school in 2021, but no one sought an extreme risk protection order to remove his access to firearms under existing law at the time.

Hochul praised state lawmakers for working to pass these new gun restrictions and urged Congress "to follow our lead and take immediate action to pass meaningful gun violence prevention measures."

There are several gun control bills under consideration in Congress but most of the measures preferred by anti-gun activists do not have enough support to pass. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators led by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) are trying to reach a compromise on a federal bill that would incentivize state governments to adopt red flag laws similar to ones in New York and Florida. Any compromise will need 10 Republicans to sign on to overcome a filibuster with 60 votes.

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