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New York Legislature Passes Sweeping Gun Control Package

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It will soon be illegal for New York educators to carry firearms at school, thanks to a gun control package state legislators passed on Tuesday—the first the state has seen since 2013. Also included: new laws that enable the courts to determine if a person poses too much of a threat to own guns or have them in their home, extend the waiting period on gun purchases, ban bump stocks, and more.

"Today is the next evolution in this ongoing crusade," Governor Andrew Cuomo—who has pledged to sign the bills—said today while meeting with gun safety advocates. "Now, you'll see the political extremes rise up, same argument for the past 25 years. 'Oh, it's another restriction, it's another slippery slope. They won't be happy until they take my gun.' No one wants to take guns from legal owners who are mentally healthy. We don't want people who are mentally ill or past felons to have guns. That's all this is."

The state legislature last took up the issue of gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, passing the SAFE Act to strengthen background checks and crack down on assault weapons. Tuesday's legislative package goes further, and reads as a direct rebuke of President Trump and other Republicans' approach to the staggering problem of gun violence—namely, that school shootings might be prevented if only we could put more guns on campuses.

Parents of Scott Beigel, a teacher who died during the shooting at Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in February 2018 were present in the state capitol today, and said their son "would have never wanted to be armed" at work, according to the Daily News. One of the bills passed Tuesday bars anybody but a "security officer, school resource officer, or law enforcement officer [from carrying] a firearm on school grounds."

Predictably, some in the legislature's Republican minority complained that this measure infringes on the rights of trained gun owners (military members, ex-law enforcement) who want to bear arms for protective purposes. "Guns in the right hands could be part of the solution, part of the defense of our children," Sen. Andrew Lanza said, according to the News. "If the state refuses to put armed officers in schools, my fear is that the only people carrying guns in schools are going to be the bad guys and that's a problem."

Please note, we have piles of evidence to support the common sense idea that more guns mean more deaths, and that throwing a "good guy with a gun" into a chaotic scenario tends to escalate tensions with more deadly outcomes.

At the same time, the Senate and Assembly also passed a "Red Flag" bill, providing for court-issued Extreme Risk Protection Orders against people determined to pose a threat to themselves or others, pursuant petitions from a "family member, law enforcement officer, or school administrator." If deemed an extreme risk, these people would be prevented from possessing, purchasing, or attempting to purchase a firearm. Lawmakers also beefed up our background checks, extending the waiting period from three to 30 days. A separate bill requires out-of-state applicants applying for firearms licenses to let New York officials access their out-of-state mental health records.

The package also included a ban on possession, transportation, and manufacture of modifiers that make guns fire more rapidly—like bump stocks—and established regulated gun buy-back programs so people can report and turn in illegal firearms without fear of retribution.

According to the Democrat and Chronicle, a ban on 3-D printed guns and provisions for safer at-home gun storage did not make it into final package. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told the publication that this decision had to do with technical kinks still to be worked out.

This set of bills represents another box checked on a progressive agenda established by the state's newly Democratic majority. Last week, lawmakers finally codified Roe v. Wade and removed abortion from New York's penal code, and also expanded access to higher education for undocumented students. The previous week, they banned gay conversion therapy, and before that, officially classified discrimination on the grounds of a person's gender identity or expression as a hate crime. All in all, a productive January.

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