Gov. Kathy Hochul has asked state police to conduct daily checks at all schools in New York State following the Texas and Buffalo mass shootings. Credit: NY Governor's Office

ALBANY — A day after the latest mass shooting massacre, a federal court Wednesday upheld a New York law that would allow the state or people impacted by gun violence to sue manufacturers.

The decision came just hours after Gov. Kathy Hochul called for raising the age for purchasing certain weapons to 21 and directed State Police to conduct check-ins at schools for the duration of the academic year. She said the state would be taking more action next week, the final scheduled week of the legislative session.

The flurry of action and proposals followed a mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, where a gun killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers.

“Just this morning, as we’re all reeling with the pain, I’m asking myself as governor: Am I supposed to just leave the flags at half-staff? They’re still at half-staff from Buffalo,” Hochul, a Buffalo native, said with a catch in her voice.

In federal court in Albany, U.S. District Judge Mae D’Agostino rejected requests by Smith & Wesson, Beretta and others to strike down a 2021 state law as unconstitutional. The law allows sellers, manufacturers and distributors to be sued for creating a “public nuisance” that endangers public safety.

The gunmakers had argued, among other things, that the law violated federal interstate commerce protections and improperly imposed liability on them.

D’Agostino disagreed, writing the law “in no way differs from the extraterritorial effect of the myriad of safety state laws and regulations with which every industry must comply.”

Coincidentally, D’Agostino’s ruling comes as state lawmakers are awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court decision on New York’s law restricting the right to carry a concealed weapon — considering one of the strongest in the nation.

Hochul said she’s prepared to call a special legislative session to rewrite the law if the Supreme Court strikes it down, as many expect.

"Do not overturn a sensible public safety law that we want for our residents,” Hochul said, speaking hypothetically to the Court.

Not two weeks earlier, New York was hit with its own massacre when a 18-year-old with white supremacist beliefs used an AR-15 assault rifle to kill 10 at a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo.

"The outrage, the disgust, the sick feeling in our stomachs as Americans, as New Yorkers, and as parents, but we will never become immune to this or desensitized to it, because that is when we start losing the battle,” Hochul said. “We must harness that outrage and that anger.”

The governor said she wants lawmakers “at minimum” to raise the purchasing age to 21 for an AR-15, but was going to “take a look at everything.”

“How does an 18-year-old purchase an AR-15 in the state of New York, the state of Texas?” Hochul asked. “That person is not old enough to buy a legal drink.”

She added: “I don’t want an 18-year-old to have a gun, at least not in the state of New York.”

Hochul, who became governor last year when Andrew M. Cuomo resigned, is battling in a June 28 Democratic primary against Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Suozzi has criticized Hochul’s stances on guns as lax.

Leaders of the Democratic-controlled State Assembly and Senate said they were planning to take up a number of gun laws before the legislative session adjourns, which is scheduled for June 2.

Along with Hochul’s proposals, legislators are reviewing approving “microstamping” of ammunition to aid investigations and strengthening “extreme risk protection orders” and the state’s “red flag” law, which provides a process for removing firearms from people who might be a danger to themselves or others, sources said.

Also, legislators are considering restrictions on body armor — such as the gear the Buffalo shooter wore.

The governor said gun violence has “a long-term effect” on the psyche of school children.

“Children today have been through so much. They don’t deserve that,” the governor said.


 

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