Paterson Introduces Tougher Gun Laws
Governor David A. Paterson announced this week that he has proposed legislation that would help ensure that only law-abiding individuals are able to obtain and retain firearms licenses. This legislation, which was delivered to the Legislature today, will close gaps in New York law that may allow persons to obtain or retain firearms licenses even though they are barred by federal law from possessing those weapons. This includes requiring a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check every three or five years for gun licensees and dealers.
"The overwhelming majority of gun licensees are responsible, law-abiding individuals, and I have no interest in preventing those New Yorkers from lawfully possessing a gun or in making their permanent licenses expire. But we know that a loaded firearm in the wrong hands can create devastation in our communities and in our families," said Governor Paterson. "This bill serves the dual roles of protecting our communities from those who try to obtain guns illegally without putting an undue burden on New York's legitimate gun owners."
Governor Paterson's program bill includes two central provisions: • Employees of gunsmiths and gun
dealers would have to undergo a NICS check if their job required them to handle firearms. This will correct an anomaly in State law that now permits a person who is otherwise disqualified from purchasing or possessing a firearm to handle, possess
and sell such weapons as an
employee of a gun dealer. • Any person holding a New York
firearm, gunsmith or firearm dealer license would have to undergo a NICS check at the time of renewal or every five years in the case of a permanent license. Currently, most jurisdictions in the State issue permanent gun licenses; others issue licenses that require renewals. This bill would not change licensing officials' authority to issue permanent licenses, nor would it make existing permanent licenses expire. By requiring a periodic NICS check, it would, however, ensure that licensing officials have information necessary to assess whether the license holder is still lawfully entitled to
possess a handgun.
These proposals to enhance the use of information in the NICS index build on legislation proposed by Governor Paterson and enacted last year (Chapter 491 of the laws of 2008) that has significantly increased New York's contribution to the NICS index. As a result of that law, the Office of Mental Health (OMH) has transmitted to NICS approximately 150,000 records of approximately 75,000 persons who are disqualified from possessing firearms as a result of an involuntary commitment to a mental health facility. Periodic NICS checks on "permanent" license holders will ensure that someone who has suffered an involuntary mental health commitment or been convicted of a disqualifying offense in any state after obtaining his or her license will no longer be authorized to possess a firearm.
Governor Paterson's bill contains two additional public safety measures: • The bill requires the Administrator
of the Courts to establish procedures to ensure that convictions for misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence are reported to the NICS index. Federal law prohibits the sale of a firearm to a person convicted of such a crime, but New York currently has no procedure to identify such convictions. This bill will ensure that this disqualifying information is reported to NICS, and help to prevent such offenders from legally purchasing or
retaining a license to possess
firearms. • In order to prevent thieves from
learning locations where firearms may be stored, the bill also would remove the street addresses of gun licensees from the category of public
New York State Police Superintendent Harry J. Corbitt said: "This bill will enhance public safety in an effective yet simple manner. Handguns that are not accounted for pose a clear danger to the public. The proposed requirement of periodic checks of pistol permits for continued validity will allow the State Police to aid local law enforcement in tracing and seizing guns unlawfully possessed. The recertification process will also identify instances where outstanding pistol permits are still registered to persons who have died. Locating and retrieving such guns, where the death of the permit holder eliminates any legitimate interest in continued possession, can prevent the gun from falling into the hands of a criminal. Presently, the only conceivable way to accomplish this goal is through the burdensome comparison of pistol permit records with death records maintained by the Department of Health or other agencies." President of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police Robert D'Angelo said, "The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police strongly supports Governor Paterson's new legislative proposal which would deter the sale of illegal firearms and assist police officers in protecting the citizens of New York State. We applaud the Governor's efforts to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals and we look forward to working with him to enact this important legislation into law."