Newtown. Orlando. Las Vegas. Parkland. Pittsburgh.
And in the past two weeks, Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, joined the list of cities victimized by mass shooters.
These mass shootings have Americans reeling, many asking what, if anything, can be done to prevent the next one with wide-ranging extremes from complete gun control to the offering of “thoughts and prayers.”
New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Democrat, has long been working toward what she believes to be strong steps in the right direction and had two bills relating to firearms signed into law over the past week.
The first revolves around safe storage of firearms.
The bill declares that anyone who owns or has custody of a rifle, shotgun or firearm and lives with anyone under 16 years old or someone who is prohibited from possessing a gun must store the weapon properly.
In a press release, Paulin said she believes the result will be fewer accidental injuries and deaths, particularly of children, and will help prevent incidents of suicide and theft.
“New York State law already requires the safe storage of rifles, shotguns and handguns in households when a person who lives there has been convicted of a crime, is subject to an order of protection or other factors,” she said. “This law adds households where a child under the age of 16 lives, or times when a child of that age could reasonably be expected to be visiting a house. Given everything we know about the effect a gun in the home can have on our children’s health and safety, and the many tragic stories when a firearm was left unattended by an adult, this law is absolutely necessary for keeping our kids safe.”
Originally introduced in 2001, it took some time for the bill to finally become a reality, which Paulin said was largely due to the fact that the state needed a Democratic senate to make it happen.
Second Amendment activists also delayed the bill’s signing. Paulin said the backlash came from the idea that once someone is a gun owner, it’s up to that individual how he or she would want to store the firearms.
“It’s a logical bill,” Paulin said. “In the case of young people, the highest percentage of suicide deaths is when there’s a gun in the house. Why wouldn’t we protect our young people?”
The second bill signed into law increases the amount of time before a firearm, shotgun or rifle may be sold to an individual whose background check requires more investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This bill establishes an extension of up to 30 calendar days for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Under the previous law, about 9% to 11% of the background checks for gun purchases using the NICS don’t come back as either “proceed” or “deny.” Instead, they come back as “delayed,” and the case is referred to an FBI examiner for more investigation.
After three business days, if the background check still hasn’t come back with a clear “proceed” or “deny” designation, the buyer can purchase the firearm at the dealer’s discretion.
Paulin said most background checks come back clean and quickly from NICS, so it won’t hinder a law-abiding citizen’s ability to purchase a gun.
Paulin’s bill was modeled after a law in California, which makes the two states unique in that they are the only two that have 30-day background checks.
It was first introduced as a bill five years ago in New York.
“We had conversations with the FBI about the issue that when there’s a background check, if they have an efficient amount of time to make sure guns aren’t getting into the wrong hands,” Paulin said.
She said about 90% of background checks can be completed in three days, but for the rest of the checks that need more time, this law would be helpful.
If a potential buyer is on a terrorist watch list, or has been charged with a domestic violence crime, which is a misdemeanor, this extended time to investigate will help the FBI come up with another reason not to allow that purchase.
Because domestic violence falls under a misdemeanor offense, that individual may still be eligible to buy a gun. And, FBI agents want to avoid tipping off those on the terrorist watch list, so they try to find another reason to not sell a firearm.
“I believe the 30-day background check bill is the most significant gun control bill we’ve passed this session,” Paulin said.
Patricia Colella, the New York State Deputy Chapter Lead for Operations for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense said she’s happy Paulin and other state legislators worked to pass gun laws this year.
“Thanks to the tireless dedication of lawmakers such as Assemblywoman Paulin, New York now stands at the forefront of gun violence prevention legislation,” Colella said.
It’s a step in the direction Paulin wants to continue fighting for, especially in the wake of the recent mass shootings.
“I believe gun violence is an epidemic that needs to be addressed and I’m passionate about it,” she said. “We can do what we can do on a statewide level, but it doesn’t seem to matter. There is one tragedy after another. It won’t change whether or not Congress will respond. That’s a great disappointment.”
Colella agreed with Paulin.
“We need Congress to follow New York’s lead,” she said. “Moms Demand Action and other gun safety advocates across the country are calling on lawmakers in Washington to finally take action on gun violence. The House of Representatives has already passed a bill to require background checks on all gun sales. Now, the Senate must vote yes on background checks.”