NYC Gun Licenses to Require Social Media Checks, Character References, Safety Course

ALBANY, New York (AP) — New York lawmakers on Friday approved a sweeping overhaul of the state’s handgun licensing rules, seeking to preserve certain limits on firearms after the Supreme Court ruled that most people have the right to carry a handgun for personal protection.

The measure, signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul after passing both chambers by wide margins, is all but sure to draw more legal challenges from gun rights advocates who say the state is still taxing too much. restrictions on who can get weapons and where they can carry them. .

Hochul, a Democrat, recalled the Democratic-controlled Legislature in Albany to work on the legislation after last week’s High Court ruling overturning the state’s longstanding licensing restrictions.

Proponents said the law, which takes effect Sept. 1, strikes the right balance between respecting the Supreme Court’s ruling and keeping guns out of the hands of people who might use them recklessly or with mischief. criminal intent.

But some Republican lawmakers, opposed to tighter restrictions, argued the law violated the constitutional right to bear arms. They predicted that this too would eventually be reversed.

Among other things, the state’s new rules will require people who apply for a handgun license to submit a list of their social media accounts so officials can verify their “character and conduct.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters in the Red Room about legislation passed during a special legislative session, July 1, 2022, at the State Capitol in Albany, New York (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Applicants will need to demonstrate that they have “the essential character, temperament and judgment necessary to be entrusted with a weapon and to use it only in a manner that does not endanger themselves or others” .

As part of this assessment, applicants must submit a list of social media accounts they have maintained over the past three years.

“Sometimes they telegraph their intent to harm others,” Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said at a news conference.

Gun rights advocates and Republican leaders were furious, saying the legislation violated not only the Second Amendment, but also privacy and free speech rights.

“The constitutional freedoms of New Yorkers have been violated,” Republican state chairman Nick Langworthy said.

The bill approved by lawmakers does not specify whether applicants will be required to provide licensing agents with access to private social media accounts not visible to the general public.

Individuals applying for a license to carry a handgun will also be required to provide four character references, complete 16 hours of firearms safety training plus two hours of practice at a shooting range, undergo periodic background checks, and provide contact information for their spouse, domestic partner or any other adult living in their household.

Hochul’s chief attorney, Elizabeth Fine, insisted the state establishes “a very clear set of eligibility criteria” and noted that the legislation includes an appeals process.

The measure signed into law on Friday also corrects a recently passed law that banned the sale of certain types of body armor to the general public. The previous law inadvertently omitted many types of body armor, including the type worn by a gunman who killed 10 black people in a racist attack on a Buffalo supermarket.

People pay their respects outside the scene of a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, on May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Supreme Court’s ruling last week struck down a 109-year-old state law that required people to demonstrate an unusual threat to their safety in order to get a license to carry a handgun outside of their home. This restriction generally limited licenses to people who had worked in law enforcement or had some other special need that went beyond common public safety concerns.

Under the new system, the state will not allow licenses for people with criminal convictions within the past five years of drunk driving, threatening or third-degree assault.

People will also not be allowed to carry guns in a long list of “sensitive places”, including New York’s heavily touristy Times Square.

NYPD officers block the street after two women and a four-year-old girl were shot and injured in Times Square, New York, on May 8, 2021. (Kena Betancur/AFP)

This list also includes schools, universities, government buildings, places where people have gathered for public demonstrations, health care facilities, places of worship, libraries, playgrounds and public parks. , daycares, summer camps, addiction and mental health centers, shelters, public transportation, bars, theaters, stadiums, museums, polling places and casinos.

New York will also ban people from bringing guns into any business or workplace unless the owners put up signs that say guns are welcome. People who bring firearms to places without such signs could be prosecuted for a crime.

This is a reverse approach from many other states where businesses that want to keep firearms are generally required to post signs that say the guns are not allowed.

Gun advocates said the law violates rights upheld by the Supreme Court.

“Now we’re going to let the owner of the pizzeria decide whether or not I can exercise my constitutional right,” said Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Republican from Staten Island. ” It’s a shame. See you in the courts.

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Denise W. Whigham