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Three weeks after Buffalo mass shooting, Hochul signs gun bills into law

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Darren McGee- Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
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Gov. Kathy Hochul's office
Gov Kathy Hochul signs 10 gun control measures into law on June 6, 2022

Three weeks and two days after the mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed 10 gun control bills into law, including raising the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.

Hochul’s hometown of Buffalo is grieving in the aftermath of the racist shooting at the Tops market that killed 10 African Americans on May 14.

“I’m speaking to you today as the governor of a state in mourning,” Hochul said. “And the citizen of a nation in crisis.”

The bills are aimed at closing some loopholes that allowed the alleged 18-year-old gunman to evade the state’s red flag laws and purchase a semi-automatic rifle and body armor.

Under the measures, law enforcement will now be required to ask a judge for an order to seize the guns of anyone they think might be a threat to themselves or others. The alleged shooter threatened to commit a murder-suicide at his high school in 2021, but the red flag law was never used.

Hochul said the purchase of body armor will be banned, except for those in law enforcement or in professions that could put them in danger. Also, no one younger than 21 will be allowed to buy semi-automatic rifles in New York.

“So no 18-year-old can walk in on their birthday and walk out with an AR-15,” Hochul said. “Those days are over.”

Other bills signed into law require gun manufacturers to allow for the microstamping of bullets to better trace weapons used in crimes. Another closes a loophole that allowed the category of "any other weapon," which Hochul said are essentially guns that are deliberately designed to evade gun control laws.

Joining Hochul were legislative leaders, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Attorney General Tish James, who said she would vigorously fight any challenges to the measures.

“To … all those drunk with power who think that they will challenge these laws,” James said. “The Second Amendment is not absolute.”

A California law that raised the age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle to age 21 was struck down by a federal court.

Hochul said while New York responded rapidly to respond to the mass shootings, national action is needed. She said decades ago, car accidents were the No. 1 killer of children in America, and the nation responded with seat belt laws and other safety measures that were unpopular at the time.

“We took away the freedom to ride in a car without a seat belt,” Hochul said. “It was a very big deal when it happened.”

But people adapted, she said.

“And guess what? We saved the lives of thousands of children,” Hochul said. “So it was clearly worth it.”

Now, more children die from gun violence than from any other cause, and she said the nation has to act.

Hochul said it is “a moment of reckoning” for the country, and history will judge our actions.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.