N.Y. Gov. Signs New Gun Law, Targets Domestic Violence

Last week, N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new gun law that will prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from legally purchasing firearms. 

Of course, this “new” law actually accords with the Lautenberg Amendment, a federal law that bans “the shipment, transport, ownership and use of guns or ammunition by individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, or who are under a restraining (protection) order for domestic abuse in all 50 states.” The Lautenberg Amendment also makes “it unlawful to knowingly sell or give a firearm or ammunition to such persons.”

The N.Y. version was conceived after a Poughkeepsie Police Officer, John Falcone, was gunned down by Lee Welch just moments after Welch murdered his wife, Jessica.   According to officials, Jessica had a restraining order against Welch, who was twice bailed out of jail while awaiting subsequent appearances before a judge. 

According to the Governor’s office, the N.Y. law is designed to improve coordination between federal regulations and state regulations as prior to the new legislation, individuals living in N.Y. state – like Welch – who had violent propensities and a criminal background were not being consistently registered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.  The N.Y. law will ensure that if someone is convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or related crime, his/her name will appear in the national registry.  This will occur after a court has reviewed the details of the case against the federal statue, i.e. the Lautenberg Amendment. 

Sponsor of the bill, state Senator Stephen Saland told reporters, “With four domestic violence-related deaths in Dutchess County in the past year, I am keenly aware of the need to strengthen the laws to provide further protections to victims of domestic violence.”  He added, “Despite our ongoing efforts against domestic violence, it remains a problem that tragically continues to be too prevalent.”

Some individuals like Thomas King, President of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, voiced concern over the potential implications of the new legislation for responsible gun owners. “I agree with the law in principle,” he said, “However, there are problems with the way it was formulated, such as the definitions of domestic violence. They are too broad.”

For those seeking further clarification as to what constitutes a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” according to U.S. code, it is defined as an offense that (i) is a misdemeanor under Federal, State, or Tribal law; and (ii) has an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, or by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim.

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