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The patchwork of state gun laws makes us unsafe

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Aug. 6,

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Aug. 6, 2019 in Hempstead. Credit: Howard Schnapp

When a person motivated by hatred attempts to massacre people of a certain race, religion, gender, creed, nationality, sexual orientation or any other group, he or she is a terrorist.

That’s true whether the killer is a foreigner motivated by hatred of Americans, an American motivated by animosity against our government, or a person moved to kill people who look or believe differently, hail from a certain place or love a certain way.

Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a law to make it clear that murder committed in New York as part of a mass attack motivated by bias is terrorism, and should be punishable by up to life in prison without parole. That’s a useful step, but not a monumental one. 

But as frustrated as Cuomo and all New Yorkers are by gun violence and mass murder, the governor cannot fix the national epidemic by making huge changes in New York’s gun laws. The state’s laws already are appropriately strict, and they are not the problem.

About three-quarters of the guns used in crimes in New York from 2010 through 2015 were originally bought out of state, and 90 percent came from six East Coast states that have lax gun laws: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia.

The more important part of Cuomo’s message came when he demanded that the slaughter in El Paso, Texas, be remembered, and that Democrats in Washington come together with an agenda on gun control, including universal background checks, and a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons. As the outrage over El Paso fades, Cuomo is right to keep pressure on President Donald Trump to stand up to the gun lobby and adopt federal laws mirroring New York’s.

Americans, Cuomo pointed out, are three times more likely to suffer a terrorist attack launched by Americans than by foreigners. The guns those American terrorists use rarely come from New York. But they do come to New York every day.— The editorial board