Kudos to Gov. Kathy Hochul and the Legislature for acting fast after the tragedies in Buffalo and Uvalde, with a package of new gun legislation headed for passage in the final days of the session.
Two provisions stand out among the 10 bills.
One would raise to 21 via a licensure requirement the age at which someone can own a gun like the one Buffalo shooter Payton Gendron used to murder 10 during his racism-fueled grocery-store rampage.
We’ve advocated for this policy, which shouldn’t interfere with legitimate gun use. To see it headed toward reality is heartening, especially as the Texas aftermath continues to rend hearts.
A second bill would bolster New York’s “red flag” laws, the statutes that define certain behaviors as potential threats and can allow cops to take firearms away from their owners preemptively. It expands the scope of who can file for the Extreme Risk Protection Orders that allow such seizures, and requires cops and DAs to seek such orders in the face of potential threats — something that law enforcement around Gendron failed to do despite his having threatened his classmates and former high school.
That last is key. Limiting gun rights can’t do much to prevent tragedies unless the authorities also focus on the people who commit them, and don’t care how many laws they break.
In the case of mass shootings, the killers seem to be angry, mentally ill young men. The enhanced red-flag law will make it less likely they’ll stay off the authorities’ (especially local law enforcement’s) radar.
Too bad the Legislature (and Hochul) won’t get similarly serious about less-exotic perps headed down the path toward homicide, as they refuse to face how the no-bail and Raise the Age laws encourage ever-greater violence and other law-breaking.
The new reforms may prevent a future mass murder, but New York’s “routine” death toll will keep rising until the state’s lawmakers face reality.