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Democrats Seek New Gun Laws in New York to Curb Shootings
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Democrats push new gun restrictions in New York Tuesday in Albany.
Credit: New York NOW

The Gun Control Debate in New York

Democrats in New York are making a new push for stronger gun control laws in the remaining days of this year’s legislative session, including a provision that would allow individuals to sue gun manufacturers in the aftermath of a crime. 

Lawmakers rallied in Albany Tuesday to support the package, which aims to restrict gun ownership in certain cases, while adding additional requirements for those seeking a firearm.

“We have seen New York state move swiftly in other crises, and now we are looking for this state Legislature to do the same in this critical month,” said Assemblymember Diana Richardson, a Democrat from Brooklyn.

Part of the package would create more hurdles for individuals seeking to purchase a gun, which Democrats said would help cut down on unlawful gun ownership while protecting firearm users who obtain their weapon legally.

One bill would require those seeking to purchase a gun to clear a mental health evaluation and pass a drug test — both of which would have to be certified by a doctor.

The legislation would also require prospective gun owners to undergo a five-hour gun safety course, and complete a live firing test with at least 90% accuracy at a shooting range using the type of firearm they intend to purchase. 

That bill would also require individuals to apply for a hunting license before they purchase a gun, and provide proof that they’ve bought a safe storage depository for the firearm.

Assemblymember Demond Meeks, a Democrat from Rochester who sponsors that bill, said it’s intended to prevent guns from falling into the hands of those who may choose to use them unlawfully, and that the issue isn’t going away on its own.

“We had a school shooting two weeks ago, outside the school, students weren’t involved. Then, just this past week, we had two individuals who were shot while worshipping in their church,” Meeks said. “Enough is enough.”

Some of the bills included in the package are targeted at gun manufacturers, rather than those seeking to purchase a firearm.

One bill would allow individuals in New York to sue gun manufacturers that don’t take steps to prevent their products from being sold and purchased illegally. Those lawsuits would be brought when someone claims the industry has caused harm to the public.

That legislation is intended to put pressure on gun manufacturers to beef up safety measures that could prevent firearms from being trafficked into New York, said Sen. Zellnor Myrie, a Democrat from Brooklyn who sponsors the bill.

“I again ask this industry: what are you going to do about your products that are killing our people?” Myrie said. “You have experienced record profits this past year … and while you make record profits, we experienced record death.

Republicans in the state Legislature were critical of that bill Tuesday, saying at a separate press conference that it wouldn’t address the broader problem of gun violence in New York.

“The idea that you’re going to hold gun manufacturers responsible … I don’t see how that changes anything,” said Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt, R-Niagara.

Ortt, and other Republicans, said they’d prefer to see stronger enforcement of the state’s current laws on illegal gun possession in communities prone to violence instead.

Democrats are also seeking a series of other changes in their gun control package, including a new funding stream to research gun violence, programs geared toward gun violence education in public schools, and a liability insurance requirement for gun owners.

Lawmakers are seeking to garner support for the package before the end of this year’s legislative session, which is scheduled to conclude late next week.

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