New York State adopted a series of measures on Monday June 6 to restrict access to firearms. A minimum age is now set at 21 to purchase a semi-automatic rifle. According to the organization Giffords Law Center, before New York, only six states applied a threshold of 21 years to purchase such a weapon.
Large capacity magazines are also limited. Buyers of an assault rifle must now have a license allowing their background to be checked. And it becomes forbidden to buy or sell bulletproof vests, except for certain professions such as the police.
The scourge of repeat shootings
New York State has one of the strictest gun laws in the country, particularly bereaved by shootings in recent weeks. According to the association Gun Violence Archive, more than twenty shootings have taken place since the tragedy in Uvalde (Texas) on May 24, which left 21 dead, including 19 children. Among which are those of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (3 dead) and Chattanooga, Tennessee (3 dead) on the night of June 4 to 5. But also those of Buffalo, in the State of New York where, on May 14, a young white supremacist perpetrated a racist massacre by murdering ten black people. There, as in Uvalde, the killers were just 18 years old and carried semi-automatic rifles.
A strict legal framework
After the adoption of these new measures in New York State, Kathy Hochul, the Democratic governor, said from Buffalo that “gun violence is a heartbreaking epidemic (the) country. Thoughts and prayers won’t solve the problem, but strong actions will.” Despite being regulated, guns are explicitly mentioned in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. Even if its interpretation is debated, this amendment has an essential symbolic power which confers legitimacy on pro-gun activists. The latter express an almost religious devotion to the Constitution.
At the local level, each state has its own gun laws. These laws vary according to different cultural, demographic and institutional factors. Each state decides, for example, whether it is necessary to have a license to carry a firearm and to possess one. States are also free to decide whether or not to recognize licenses valid in other States.
A war on the gun lobby
After the Uvalde massacre, US President Joe Biden himself called last week for a national ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault rifles, as was the case from 1994 to 2004. Failing that, he would like to raise the minimum purchase age from 18 to 21, but the negotiations between Democrats and Republicans promise to be long and complex to suggest an agreement.