Friday, January 25, 2013

The "New" New York Gun Laws

In a not-so quiet move, New York State announced "sweeping" gun control legislation last week.  There is plenty of fact and fiction that both pro and anti-gun coalitions are using, so I thought I'd address the highlights of gun laws in New York State.  Both current and the new changes.

It is important to define what a firearm is in New York State.  While there are many guns that fall under the definition of firearm, the ones we are mainly concerned with are pistols, revolvers, and modified/shortened shotguns or rifles.  These are commonly called sawed-off.  

Sale of Firearms

A local and national criminal background check is required for all private firearm, rifle, and shotgun purchases.  

Mandatory Reporting

Mental health professionals are now required to report to the director of community services (who then will forward it to the division of criminal justice services) when they believe one of their patients is going to be a threat to harm themselves or others.  This information is to be used to assess whether that person's firearm license should be suspended or revoked, or if they should be ineligible to apply for one in the future.   

Community Guns

Have you ever heard of a community gun?  I didn't until I began this job.  This is basically where a group of people share one or more firearms to use in crimes.  They stash firearms in alleys, in parks, in backyards, or anywhere else they can safely hide them.  The group of people who share the firearm know where it is so they can have quick access to it when they see a rival gang member or a quick robbery hit.  This is now included in criminal facilitation.  The offense level depends on what crime the user commits with the firearm.

Mark's Law

There have been too many instances of first responders (EMTs and firemen) getting killed in the course of their duty (Mark Davis and Webster Volunteer Fire Department are two examples).  It is now murder in the first degree to intentionally kill one of these first responders who are acting in the course of their duty.  It was already first degree murder to kill police officers, court officers, and other related persons. 

Assault Weapons

The law forbidding possession of assault weapons is broadened.  An assault weapon is defined as any semiautomatic rifle that is capable of accepting a detachable magazine, and has:  (1) a folding or telescoping stock, (2) a pistol grip that protrudes beneath the action of the weapon, (3) a flash suppressor or barrel designed to accept one, (4) a bayonet mount, (5) a grenade launcher, (6) a thumbhole stock, or (7) a second handgrip that can be held by the non-trigger hand.  Assault weapons are also semiautomatic shotguns with one of these characteristics:  (1) a folding or telescoping stock, (2) a pistol grip or second grip that protrudes beneath the action of the weapon, (3) ability to accept a detachable magazine, (4) a thumbhole stock or (5) a fixed magazine that can hold more than 7 rounds.

There are plenty of other assault weapons specifically named in the law and also characteristics for semiautomatic pistols that will make it an assault weapon.  It's too many to mention in this blog post.  


If the magazine can hold more than 7 rounds of ammo, it is now a large capacity feeding device and a possession of it is class "A" misdemeanor.  There are exceptions for people who possessed the magazines prior to the effective date of the legislation.

Guns on School Grounds

It is a class "E" felony to carry an unloaded firearm within 1000 feet of any school, from a pre-school to a college.  It is still a class "C" felony to carry a loaded firearm within 1000 feet of schools.  

Unloaded Guns

It is now an "E" felony to possess an unloaded firearm.  It was a misdemeanor.  It is also a felony to willfully avoid the new registration process if you own a now illegal gun after the effective date of the legislation.

The law is 41 pages long and discusses everything from safe storage of guns, selling and buying, licensing, registering firearms, and the procedure to turn in items that now violate the statute without penalties.  It also provides a small list of people who can apply to avoid having their personal information and permits available for the public record.

It is complicated and a solution that does not resolve all the concerns from either side of the debate.  Illegal handguns are the weapon of choice in most of my cases.  The laws surrounding those are not affected too much by this law.  It is still too easy for people looking to commit crimes to obtain these guns.  Does this law do enough to stop it?  Can you stop it?

More info on New York Gun laws

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