Threatening mass harm is now a misdemeanor crime in New York. Establishing this new crime is only one of many changes that have been enacted in the wake of the mass shooting that killed 10 people at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo.
Other changes include the following:
- Raising the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle
- Making social media platforms more responsible for their content
- Eliminating grandfather clauses for some high-capacity magazines
- Criminalizing the purchase of body armor
A package of 10 bills addresses a wide spectrum of gun-related issues from red flag statutes to the ability to buy body armor. All were signed into law by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on June 6, 2022.
This action isn’t the only gun-related legislation in 2022. Earlier this year, the sale of untraceable ghost guns was criminalized in the Empire State.
Creating Two New Laws
Legislation S.89-B/A.6716-A creates the crimes of making a threat of mass harm and aggravated making a threat of mass harm.
A person is guilty of making a threat of mass harm “when with the intent to intimidate a group of people or to create public alarm, such person threatens to inflict or cause to be inflicted, serious physical injury or death at a school, place of worship, business, government building, or other place of assembly, and thereby causes a reasonable expectation or fear of serious physical injury or death, or causes the evacuation or lockdown of a school, place of worship, business, government building, or other place of assembly.” This crime is generally charged as a class B misdemeanor.
The crime is classified as aggravated when the person goes beyond threats and takes some type of action to carry out the threat. This crime is generally charged as a class A misdemeanor.
Raising the Age to Purchase Semiautomatic Rifles
Legislation S.9458/A.10503 now requires a person to obtain a license before they can purchase or possess a semiautomatic rifle. Under preexisting New York State law, individuals must be 21 years or older to acquire a gun license. Recertification of licenses is mandatory every five years.
The unlawful purchase, possession, or sale of a semiautomatic rifle is a class E felony. Failure to properly renew the license is fined up to $250.
Criminalizing the Purchase of Body Armor
Legislation S.9407-B/A.10497 makes it illegal to purchase or sell body vests for anyone who is not engaged in an eligible profession. Eligible professions, such as law enforcement and military personnel, will be designated by the Department of State. All body vest sales must also be completed in person.
The first offense is a class A misdemeanor. Subsequent violations are a class E felony. The law also establishes fines of up to $5,000 for a first offense and up to $10,000 on subsequent offenses.
Bolstering Red Flag Statutes
Legislation S.9113-A/A.10502 expands who may file an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) petition to include health care practitioners who have examined an individual within the last six months.
The mental health practitioners' reports on potentially harmful individuals weigh heavily in the determination of whether to issue the individual a firearm license.
The new law also obligates police and district attorneys to file ERPO petitions when they have credible information that an individual is likely to engage in conduct that would harm themselves or others.
State Police and the Municipal Police Training Council are also directed to create and disseminate policies and procedures to identify when an ERPO petition may be warranted.
Expanding the Definition of Firearm
Legislation S.9456/A.10504 expands the definition of a firearm to include any weapon designed or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by an explosive. This law now includes firearms modified to be shot from an arm brace, which had previously sidestepped New York law.
Legislation S.9229-A/A.10428-A eliminates the grandfathering of large-capacity ammunition feeding devices that were lawfully possessed prior to the enactment of the Safe Act or manufactured prior to 1994. Large capacity is any device with more than rounds of ammunition. Those found in violation of this law are guilty of a class A misdemeanor.
Requiring Social Media Platforms to Address Hateful Conduct
Legislation S.4511-A/A.7865-A requires social media networks in New York to establish clear policies on how they would respond to hateful conduct on their platform. The networks must also create a mechanism in which they can easily report hateful conduct.
The law defines hateful conduct in this context to mean “the use of a social media network to vilify, humiliate, or incite violence against a group, or a class of persons on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
Addressing Violent Extremism in New York
Legislation S.9465/A.10501 creates a new task force housed in the Office of the Attorney General. The group will study and investigate the role of social media companies in promoting and facilitating violent extremism and domestic terrorism online. The task force is also charged with making recommendations to address the problem. The task force will report their work on an annual basis. A preliminary report is due within the next 13 months.
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