New York passes broad gun control measures as states urged to ‘follow our lead’

Bill to largely impact areas outside New York City which already have strict gun-control measures

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New York’s legislature has passed a bill to raise the age limit for purchasing semi-automatic rifles to 21, in the wake of two mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde last month that killed a total 31 people, including 19 children.

The bill, announced earlier this week by governor Kathy Hochul, was taken up for debate on Thursday.

It seeks to raise the age limit to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21 years from the current 18 as Democrats continue to push for regulations on buying and possessing firearms.

The legislation passed New York’s senate by 43-20 votes and in the assembly by 102-47.

The bill, apart from raising the legal age to purchase semi-automatic rifles, also makes it mandatory for people purchasing the firearm to get a licence, earlier required only for handguns.

The possession of handguns is allowed by the state for people aged 21 or above.

The change would largely impact areas outside New York City, which already requires permits to possess, carry and purchase any type of firearm and prohibits most applicants under 21.

Elsewhere in the state, people as young as 16 can possess long guns like rifles and shotguns without a licence.

New York will join a handful of states, including Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Vermont and Washington, which require buyers to be at least 21 years, instead of 18, to purchase long guns.

“Our nation-leading gun legislation package just passed both houses. New York is taking swift action to strengthen Red Flag laws, close loopholes, and protect communities,” Ms Hochul said in a tweet.

The New York state senate’s Democratic majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins urged other state legislatures to “follow our lead”, reported The New York Times.

Thursday’s vote took place at a time when president Joe Biden gave a prime-time speech about the recent mass shootings and told Americans, “Let’s hear the call and the cry, let’s meet the moment, let us finally do something.”

He added that if legislators failed to act, voters should use their “outrage” to turn it into a central issue in November’s midterm elections.

“How much more carnage are we willing to accept?” Mr Biden asked, days after angry locals told him to “do something” following the 24 May shooting, where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

On Wednesday, another gunman in Tulsa, Oklahoma, killed four people and died by suicide at a medical office. “Don’t tell me raising the age won’t make a difference,” the president said.

Mr Biden's bid to bring gun reforms in the US has been met with strong opposition from the Republicans.

Republican senator Alexis Weik stressed that an 18-year-old could still travel to another state and buy a semi-automatic rifle. Senator Kevin Thomas, a Long Island Democrat, shot back: “Are you advocating for federal gun control? Because that’s what’s needed.”

Democrat senator Gustavo Rivera, dismissing Republicans who argued that the bill would violate second amendment rights, said: “It is meant to be a hassle to those folks who might want to get their hands quickly on something with which they could mass murder people.”

Similarly, a House panel Thursday advanced legislation that would raise the age limit for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21.

The Democratic legislation, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, was added to the legislative docket following the elementary school shooting.

White House speaker Nancy Pelosi in a letter to Democratic colleagues reportedly said the House will vote on the measure next week, including banning military-style semi-automatic rifles.

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler, dismissing Republican criticism, said his chamber’s proposals were popular with most Americans.

“You say that it is too soon to take action? That we are ‘politicising’ these tragedies to enact new policies?” Mr Nadler said.

“It has been 23 years since Columbine. Fifteen years since Virginia Tech. Ten years since Sandy Hook. Seven years since Charleston. Four years since Parkland and Santa Fe and Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.”

Rep Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the committee, said no one wants another tragedy, adding, however, that the bill would not be able to stop mass shootings.

“We need to get serious about understanding why this keeps happening. Democrats are always fixated on curtailing the rights of law-abiding citizens rather than trying to understand why this evil happens,” Mr Jordan said.

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