Hochul proposes laws to combat gun-related crimes

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Gov. Kathy Hochul this week shared details of a comprehensive package to combat rise in domestic terrorism and strengthen state gun laws. (Darren McGee/Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul)

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.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

3 thoughts on “Hochul proposes laws to combat gun-related crimes

  1. Agreed. Scalia and the majority also left the door open to regulating types of weapons, which many lawmakers do not see as a problem, regardless of events. Unfortunately, Second Amendment absolutists believe the Founders intended this right to all manner of firearms and any person including the town drunk, village idiot, or the evil sociopath.

  2. The best insight into this question is the what the late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stephens wrote dissenting and in opposition of Scalia’s majority decision in Heller v. Washington DC. Stephens details over 200 years of regulating weapons and guns, especially in
    populated areas, even in wild towns like Tombstone and Dodge City. Whether it was farmers coming into town for supplies, or families attending church on Sunday, they did not want to be shot by drunks coming out of the Saloon and engaging in gunfights.
    What I like about the Scalia decision is he made clear a gun was an individual right and the Second Amendment reference to militias was to government militias. Therefore, outlaw all private armed militias, who in many cases are putting the racist lies all over social media. Guns should be regulated at least as much as driving a car and the number one right is for those alive is not to be shot or murdered. In my generation we fought with the vote with the logic that if we were old enough to be drafted and sent to war, we were old enough to vote. Now we are in a life where an eighteen-year-old cannot go into a bar for a cold beer and share a laugh but can own a military grade deadly weapon even when they are not in the military or in training for police work. When my youngest son was in school and later with my grandson, I was afraid to teach them any self-defense to stand up to bullies because the bully or the bully’s friend may come back with a gun. I am not open minded on this. Compared to any other democracy our death rate by guns is absurd and a sickness.

    • That five out of nine High Court justices erred in DC v Heller by misinterpreting the plain language of an amendment specifically designed to address only a “well-regulated militia to create a brand spanking new “Right of Personal Pprotection” to justify the private ownership over 300,000,000 firearms (damn activist NeoCon judges!) , was at least partially offset by the Court making clear that the “right to keep and bear arms” was NOT an unlimited right. “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” However, given the even further right wing ideological bent of the current Court, it will not be a surprise if even these limitations are chipped away.

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