Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered a two-pronged response to the mass shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday that claimed 10 lives. The governor issued two executive orders that take effect immediately but also called for new laws requiring legislative approval.
Hochul proposed new legislation that revises and widens the definition of a firearm, which she says closes the “other gun” loophole. It would make more guns subject to pre-existing firearm laws.
The governor’s package also contained two measures that are expected to help with the investigation and prevention of gun-related crimes.
The first would establish a process that requires semiautomatic pistols manufactured or delivered to licensed dealers in New York to be microstamping-enabled. A ballistics identification technology, microstamping enables law enforcement officers to link cartridge cases to the firearm that discharged them. Microscopic identification codes are engraved into the gun’s firing pin. It could help connect bullets and casings found at crime scenes to a gun and, if applicable, other crimes.
In 2007, California was the first state to enact legislation that required manufacturers to adopt microstamping in some firearms.
The second proposed bill takes aim at gun-reporting protocols. Law enforcement agencies would be required to report recovered crime guns within 24 hours of discovery. Such records often help with gun-tracing efforts.
According to an Everytown research analysis, from 2009 to 2020, 1,363 people in the United States were killed and 947 more were wounded in 240 mass shootings, an average of 20 shootings each year. The casualties included at least 362 children and teens, and 21 law enforcement officers who were killed and 35 who were wounded. (Everytown defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot and killed, excluding the shooter.)
Five of the deadliest shootings during this period involved assault weapons and/or high-capacity magazines. The shooter in Buffalo opened fire with a rifle on shoppers at a Tops supermarket.
The state budget aims to alter such statistics—$227 million has been allocated to gun violence prevention efforts of law enforcement and community-based organizations.
Hochul’s executive orders will bring more immediate action. The first focuses on examining the surge in domestic terrorism and extremism planned on social media platforms and internet forums. The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services has been called on to launch a new unit that focuses on threat assessment management, disbursing funding to localities to create and operate their own threat assessment management teams and using social media as an intervention tool. It will also educate law enforcement members, mental health professionals and school officials, and create best practices for identifying and intervening in the radicalization process.
The order also calls for the State Police to establish a dedicated unit within the New York State Intelligence Center to track domestic violent extremism through social media. The unit will develop investigative leads through social media analysis, with a specific focus on identifying possible threats and individuals motivated by radicalization and violent extremism, officials say. Counties are expected to perform an exhaustive review of current strategies, policies and procedures for confronting such domestic threats.
The second order will require State Police to file for an Extreme Risk Protection Order under New York’s “red flag law” whenever they have probable cause to believe that an individual is a threat to themselves or others. Hochul also issued a referral to the attorney general’s office to investigate and study the social media platforms that were used by the shooter in Buffalo to broadcast, promote, and facilitate violence, espouse hate, and legitimize replacement theory, officials say. Findings from the investigation will be used to enhance and build on the state’s strategy.
Gun law discussions often follow events like the mass shooting in Buffalo. Americans are split over whether legal changes would lead to fewer mass shootings, according to a Pew Research poll conducted last year. About half of adults (49 percent) say there would be fewer mass shootings if it was harder for people to obtain guns legally, while about as many either say this would make no difference (42 percent) or that there would be more mass shootings (9 percent), the report states.
The survey also found that the public is even more divided about the effects of gun ownership on crime overall. Thirty-four percent say that if more people owned guns, there would be more crime. The same percentage say there would be no difference.
It remains to be seen if the state Legislature will back Hochul’s approach.