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Editorial: New York puts sensible gun restraints in place

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed four sensible, useful gun control bills last week. Critics call them an attack on the Second Amendment, but they are no such thing.

In the eyes of some critics, no gun control bill is tolerable, even if it merely sets reasonable standards for securing firearms when a child is in the house or establishes a waiting period before making a purchase. That view parrots the extremist position of the National Rifle Association, an organization with which many of its own members differ on the matter of sensible gun controls. Cuomo was right to sign these bills. With them, New York will be safer.

The laws:

• Impose new penalties against gun owners with children under age 16 living in the household for failing to safely store or disarm their weapons. Violations are a misdemeanor penalty. The law takes effect in 60 days. Guns not safely stored are an invitation to disaster, especially when children are in the house.

• Make it a crime to make, sell, transport or possess any firearms whose major components are undetectable by X-rays, portable pulsed X-ray generators, metal detectors or magnetometer. The law targets weapons such as those made by a 3D printing process. This may be the most controversial of the laws, but its value is obvious to anyone who gets on a plane.

• Ban bump stocks, which can greatly expand the swiftness with which rounds can be fired. Tom King, executive director of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, called the law unnecessary, since the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has already enacted a rule banning the sale and possession of bump stocks. But, as Americans have learned, government rules are different from laws and can quickly be undone. This law is valuable, regardless of the federal regulation.

• Extend the waiting period to purchase a weapon to 30 days in cases when background checks do not produce prompt approval. It ends a careless practice in which a purchaser who does not clear a federal background check within three days can buy a firearm anyway. While most gun owners receive an immediate reply, additional background work is needed for some. This allows for that.

The mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, were brutal reminders of the damage caused by guns in the hands of people who have no business getting access to them.

None of these laws is especially intrusive. None interferes with the right to own a gun, with the exception of banning ownership of weapons “invisible” to detection devices.

They are a direct threat to anyone who relies on weapon detection measures for safety, including those who work in government buildings. Government action on them is essential.

Too often, defenders of the Second Amendment fail to acknowledge that the rights it protects have limits, as do all rights guaranteed to Americans. Freedom of speech has its limits – you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. So do freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

The question isn’t whether gun control laws can comport with the Second Amendment – they can, as the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once noted. The only question is where the line is drawn between what is constitutional and what is not.

These four new laws are worthy efforts to address real problems and keep New Yorkers safe. The Legislature did right to pass them and Cuomo did right to sign them.

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