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Gov. Hochul adds abortion rights to special session agenda

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WXXI News
The New York state Capitol in Albany.

ALBANY — New York lawmakers began a special legislative session Thursday with the intent of limiting the proliferation of firearms in public after the Supreme Court gutted the state's century-old handgun licensing law.

The state is overhauling its rules for carrying guns after the court decided that ordinary citizens had a right to arm themselves in public for self-defense, something New York had limited mostly to people working in law enforcement or security.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced early Friday morning that the special session of the Legislature will also take up the abortion rights issue. Hochul said the agenda will include an item for lawmakers to consider “enshrining abortion access in the (state) constitution."

New rules being rushed through an emergency session of the Legislature would allow many more gun owners to apply for a license to carry a concealed weapon, but would seek to set new restrictions on where firearms can be carried.

Lawmakers and Hochul's staff had hoped to have a vote Thursday, but work drafting the bills was unfinished when the day ended at midnight. Work continued until shortly before 1:30 a.m. Friday, and was set to resume later in the day.

"We're continuing to have serious discussions because the implications are hard to overstate. We want to ensure we are doing this in a constitutional way, in a way that comports with the court's opinion," Sen. Zellnor Myrie, a Brooklyn Democrat, said during an afternoon press conference in New York's State Capitol. "We're just trying to close the loop on some details."

One provision proposed Wednesday by Hochul, a Democrat, would ban people from carrying firearms into places of business unless owners put up signage saying guns are welcome.

New York would be the first state to pass such a rule, according to David Pucino, deputy chief counsel at Giffords Law Center. In states where carrying guns is more common, businesses that want to keep guns out are usually required to post signs indicating weapons aren't allowed.

New York would also set new requirements for obtaining a handgun permit, including mandating 15 hours of in-person training at a firing range. The Legislature is also primed to enact new rules around firearm storage in homes and vehicles.

Gun advocate groups are critical of the new proposed restrictions, saying some of them infringe on the rights upheld by the Supreme Court.

Hochul and fellow Democrats also plan on compiling a list of "sensitive places" where the average person will be banned from carrying firearms, including hospitals, schools and public transportation.

Other provisions require background checks for all purchases of ammunition for guns that require a permit, and bar people with a history of dangerous behavior from getting handgun permits.

Hochul has said the Supreme Court ruling came at a particularly painful time, with New York mourning the deaths of 10 people in a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo. "This decision isn't just reckless. It's reprehensible. It's not what New Yorkers want," she said.

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