By Paul McQuillen and Murray Holman
I recently had the honor of observing from the Legislature’s chambers as the state Senate and Assembly enacted meaningful and potentially life-saving gun safety legislation.
Western New York legislators and those from across the state should be proud of the widespread bipartisanship demonstrated in enacting these meaningful laws.
While many will disparage this package of legislation, the truth is that none of this impacts lawful gun owners, hunters or the shooting sports. Nothing takes away or limits the rights of gun owners.
What this legislation does do is:
• authorizes a check of home-state mental health records for out-of-state residents applying for New York State gun permits; requires the applicant to authorize release of out-of-state records;
• directs the State Police to develop a statewide standard for gun buyback programs;
• bans the possession, manufacture, transport and disposition of “bump stocks,” the devices used to murder 59 people in Las Vegas and injure hundreds more;
• prohibits schools (K-12) from arming teachers, administrators, or any other person not primarily employed as a school resource officer, law enforcement officer, or security officer;
• enacts a “red flag” law empowering family and household members, law enforcement and school officials to petition a court to suspend access to guns of an individual in crisis, while protecting the rights of gun owners and their rights to due process;
• extends the number of days from three to 30 to allow law enforcement to complete an individual’s background checks if approval is not received sooner.
Guns kill more than 40,000 Americans a year. They are the second leading cause of death of children under 19 and the leading cause of death of black children under 19. Two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides and half of all suicides are by gun. Gun are 90 percent successful in suicide attempts as opposed to 2 percent for poison.
There are 1.7 million children living in homes with loaded, unlocked guns and 89 percent of unintentional or accidental gun deaths occur in the home, most often while playing with a loaded gun.
Meanwhile, the United States Congress has been sitting on the sidelines held captive by the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association. That is about to end. At long last, Congress is beginning to consider gun safety legislation. Doing something may not be enough; doing nothing is not an option.
Paul McQuillen is upstate coordinator for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence; Murray Holman is executive director of the Stop the Violence Coalition.