The Supreme Court has yet to officially opine on the constitutionality of New York’s “may issue” permitting laws for concealed carry licenses, and now a host of other newer restrictions will likely be getting court attention in the days ahead. On Monday, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed several sweeping new restrictions into law, including a ban on sales of so-called assault weapons to adults under the age of 21, new registration requirements for all owners of modern sporting rifles, and an expansion of the state’s “red flag” law that could have some unintended consequences for those in need of mental health services or counseling.
The laws were rammed through the Democrat-controlled legislature last week as a response to the mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store in which ten people were murdered by an 18-year old suspect, and during today’s signing ceremony Hochul and other Democrats made it clear that even more restrictions are on the way.
“Thoughts and prayers won’t do it, but strong action will,” Hochul urged, adding in a message to members of Congress, where gun-control has stalled: “Heaven help you if you look at those images and don’t have a change of heart.”
The Red Flag law in New York will be expanded to allow more people, including health-care professionals, to file risk orders that could lead to weapons confiscations from potentially dangerous people. And it requires, rather than allows, law enforcement to seek an order if credible information is provided.
Semi-automatic rifles, which already difficult to obtain in New York, will added to the list to the weapons requiring a permit and will only be available to those over age 21.
Another bill would ban the sale of body armor to people outside law enforcement or other state-designated professions, and it will add microstamping to bullets — which can better trace their origin. Social media companies will be required to improve their policies around how they respond to hateful conduct on their platforms, as well as “maintain easily accessible mechanisms” for the public to report people.
“We will be ready to defend these laws against challenges,” Attorney General Tish James said at the news conference with Hochul and other Democratic leaders.
“The Second Amendment is not absolute.”
James’ comments come as New York awaits a U.S. Supreme Court case in the coming weeks that is expected to overturn its concealed carry ban. If the judges overturn the law, state lawmakers have already pledged to come back to the state Capitol to pass a new law that would limit those who have concealed carry permits.
The Second Amendment may not be absolute in the eyes of the courts, but it’s not a nullity either, and James may have a difficult time defending the bulk of these laws, including the ban on sales of semi-automatic rifles to adults under the age of 21. The Ninth Circuit recently overturned a similar ban in California, and Florida’s ban on gun sales to under-21s is currently being heard in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals as well.
As far as the effectiveness (as opposed to the constitutionality) of these laws, New York’s handgun registration scheme hasn’t prevented more criminals from illegally obtaining and using handguns in the commission of violent crimes, and I doubt that the state’s new restrictions on modern sporting rifles are going to do anything of substance other than prevent law-abiding young adults from purchasing the most commonly-sold rifle in the country. The state’s new microstamping law is likely to lead to a slow-motion ban on “noncompliant” handguns, but isn’t going to curtail any criminal enterprises either.
The expansion of New York’s “red flag” law also poses some problems that anti-gun Democrats don’t seem to have thought much about. By expanding the list of individuals who can petition the courts for an Extreme Risk Protection Order to include counselors and health-care professionals, Hochul and company have now increased the likelihood that some gun owners will choose to not seek help if they’re struggling because of their fears that they might be subjected to a “red flag” petition and have their firearms seized simply for getting counseling. Instead of removing the stigma around gun ownership and mental health, Hochul and her anti-gun allies in the legislature have helped to codify it into law, and my suspicion is that the uintended consequences are going to be long-lasting and widespread.
Of course, if that is the case then the governor will simply use those failures to call for even more criminalization of the right to keep and bear arms. After all, New York’s SAFE Act, approved in 2013, clearly didn’t do the trick, and when this current gun control package fails to stop committed killers and violent criminals from preying on the innocent we’ll once again hear calls from New York Democrats demanding another round of restrictions and promising increased security at the expense of our right to self-defense. Rinse and repeat, and the only thing that really changes is that a right of the people is whittled down to a privilege to be doled out by the state.