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Gov. Kathy Hochul seeks to raise age limit to buy AR-15s

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Gov. Kathy Hochul called for raising the age for purchasing some guns to 21.

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Struggling to control her emotions on the day after another mass shooting, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday called for new efforts to intercept the flow of illegal guns into New York State, require microstamping on some ammunition and raise the age for purchasing military-style rifles to 21.

Hochul joined Kevin Bruen, superintendent of the New York State Police, at the State Police Intelligence Center in the Albany suburb of East Greenbush to seek the Legislature's approval in the waning days of its session for the new age limit on purchasing weapons like the AR-15 used in the May 14 shooting that killed 10 people in Buffalo. Police say they also recovered two AR-15 rifles from the Tuesday shooting scene in Uvalde, Texas, that claimed 21 lives – including 19 children.

Eighteen-year-olds are the accused shooters in both incidents, she noted.

"How does an 18-year-old purchase an AR-15 in the State of New York, or the State of Texas?" she asked. "That person isn't old enough to buy a legal drink.

"I want it to be 21," she added. "I think that's just common sense."

Hochul continued her drive to impose more controls on purchasing weapons such as the military-style AR-15.

"I don't want 18-year-olds to have guns, at least not in the State of New York," the governor said, adding she will concentrate on the AR-15 but examine limiting access to other guns too.

After an emergency meeting convened by Hochul on Wednesday morning, Bruen said State Police will immediately coordinate with local agencies in checking on schools during regular patrols through the end of the school year. He said parents should know that troopers and local police will be on extra alert to protect their children.

Hochul acknowledged a California program requiring some bullets to be microstamped to provide a "fingerprint" upon discharge has encountered problems. But she said New York can learn from the California experience, and she called on the firearms industry to drop any opposition and join in crafting a better system. The governor reminded gun manufacturers of liability issues they continue to encounter, and she suggested it is in their best interests to cooperate in efforts she labeled "not punitive."

She also noted the need for cooperation with other states, which she said is improving but not to the extent needed.

"I'll be honest, doing this alone in the State of New York will not solve the problem as long as guns and high-capacity magazines as we saw in Buffalo come in from other states," she said.

Still, Hochul and Bruen noted new success in controlling illegal guns, citing the recent seizures of 4,105 guns. Hochul also pointed to her new executive order banning "ghost guns" stemming from homemade kits.

The governor also dismissed any suggestion the state should hold off on new measures because of possible legal challenges in court.

"I don't want to tie our hands when it comes to our desire to stop violence on the streets of New York or a grocery store in Buffalo," she said.

As funerals for the 10 victims of the Buffalo shootings continue, Hochul focused on the effects of guns on families and her desire to at least limit their access. She acknowledged the rights and limitations imposed by the Second Amendment but emphasized – with some emotion – her renewed resolve.

"It happens in a nation that seems to revere the rights of gun owners, and the ability to possess guns, over the right of children to stay alive, or to go to a school without fear of having to duck or run," Hochul said, criticizing Congress for a lack of action. "They look to us to protect them, and they have the right to be protected by the adults who govern this country.

"But just this morning, as we're all dealing with the pain, I'm asking myself as governor, 'Am I supposed to just leave all the flags at half-mast?' They're still at half-mast from Buffalo," she added. "No, I don't want to."

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