Explainer: What Good Is It to be the Toughest State on Gun Control?

Monday, August 06, 2012

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg holds a news conference on gun control July 10, 2007 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Getty)

A New York State Senator plans to introduce six new pieces of gun control legislation this week, which if passed would make New York the state with the toughest gun laws in the nation. But gun control advocates caution that lax laws in other states would still pose a threat.

Senator Michael Gianaris, a Democrat from Queens, is proposing a series of restrictive measures that go above and beyond the state’s already relatively strong gun laws. Gianaris’s bills would:

  • limit New Yorkers to purchasing only one gun per person per month
  • mandate a 10-day waiting period for all gun purchases
  • require background checks for all gun sales, even those between a private seller and buyer
  • require dealers to report all firearm and ammunition sales within 24 hours to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, where records would be kept on file for at least a decade
  • limit ammo sales to permitted dealers
  • require gun buyers to take a safety course

Gianaris crafted these bills in conjunction with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit that lobbies for stricter gun laws and ranks states based on the strength of their gun laws. Currently, New York ranks fourth-best on the list, with a score of 62 out of 100. The state trails California, New Jersey and Massachusetts, which are first, second, and third, respectively.

Going down New York’s scorecard, you’ll notice the bills introduced by Gianaris specifically address the holes where New York isn’t receiving enough or any points. Passage of all six would make New York #1 for gun control in Brady’s book, with a perfect score of 100.

“New York should lead the way and this is an effort to make us the toughest state in the nation on guns,” Gianaris said.

The Senator has co-sponsored gun control legislation in the past, and previously introduced a bill requiring background checks for certain gun purchases, but he’s never put together a package of legislation like this before. Recent events motivated him to reach out to the Brady Campaign and focus more of his energy on gun control.

“It was immediately after Aurora and a number of incidents in New York City,” Gianaris explained, referring to July’s mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado, and citing a 12 percent increase in gun violence in New York City since 2011.

The 'iron pipeline'

By a huge margin, law enforcement recovers more guns in New York City than in any other part of the state. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 3,980 guns were recovered in New York City in 2011, almost half of the entire state’s total.

The vast majority of these guns can be traced to purchases in other states, usually ones with more lax gun laws. In 2011, out-of-state guns recovered in New York accounted for 68 percent of traces in which the source state was identified.

State legislators could succeed in making New York the #1 gun control state in the country, but they can’t do much to stem the tide of guns coming up I-95 from places like Virginia and North Carolina.

“What’s more sad is that they could have written that report last year, the year before, and in each of the last 10 or 15 years,” said Richard Aborn, President of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City. “It doesn’t change. And the reason it doesn’t change is that Congress doesn’t act.”

“It’s really a problem for Congress to address,” Gianaris said. “We obviously have no control over what other states do with their gun laws. What we’re trying to do here is improve the state of affairs in New York and set the example both for the states and the federal government as to what citizens expect in terms of responsible governing as it relates to guns.”

Aborn applauded Senator Gianaris’ efforts, and advocates for the same measures to be adopted at the national level: licensing and registration, mandatory safety training, universal background checks, and the one-gun-a-month rule.

“The idea behind one-gun-a-month is an economic argument,” Aborn said. “Gun traffickers engage in illegal gun trafficking because they make money at it, and the way they make money is buying guns in bulk and selling them on the street. If you limit the number of guns they can buy to one every 30 days it’s no longer profitable to engage in illegal running.

In the early 1990s, Virginia became the first state to pass a one-gun-a-month law. Aborn said it was because the state developed a “sense of outrage” that guns purchased in bulk there were being recovered in New York. Earlier this year, Governor Bob McDonnell repealed that law.

“We should always try to do better; what New York does, other progressive states look toward,” said Aborn, “But we also need to be very realistic about this. New York cannot totally protect itself against illegal guns. It needs the support of Congress.”

Just because other states are more lax about gun control doesn’t mean states like New York shouldn’t try and do more, said Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign. “The perfect is not the enemy of the good. The harder we make it for criminals and other dangerous people to get guns, the greater the potential for lives to be saved.”

New York doesn’t have a purchase waiting period on the books yet, but it can take up to six months to get a permit to purchase in the state. And while New York already requires background checks for gun purchases from dealerships and gun shows, Gianaris’ bill would extend the requirement to private citizens wishing to sell guns to other private citizens; they would have to conduct the transaction at a dealer who could perform the background check.

Only six other states require the kind of safety training Gianaris put forth. After Virginia's repeal, California and Maryland are now the only other states to limit residents to one gun purchase per person per month.

Senator Gianaris hopes to introduce his legislation Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.


More in:

Comments [20]

ashad hosain from USA

The perfect is not the enemy of the good. The harder we make it for criminals and other dangerous people to get guns, the greater the potential for lives to be saved.”

Nov. 27 2013 04:11 AM
female bodyguard from USA

but he’s never put together a package of legislation like this before. Recent events motivated him to reach out to the Brady Campaign and focus more of his energy on gun control.

Nov. 12 2013 12:46 AM
Harris from VA beach

Crowley is not being fair to Romney, it is obvious she favors Obama. She keeps cutting Romney short

Oct. 16 2012 09:37 PM
Howard. from Upstate NY

This is the dumbest set of law proposal I have ever seen. This will do nothing for illegal guns. Guns can be bought off the street like a hot dog from the sabrett guy. Get serious and stop trying to put stupid laws like this in affect spend some of my hard earned tax money on more cops to hunt down the illegal gun owners and get there weapons. Leave ours alone.

Aug. 17 2012 03:11 PM
Barbara from Sunnyside

I don't know, I somehow thought these and dozens of other laws were already on the books. If present laws were enforced, if the penalties that applied were applied, if automatic guns were not sold, etc., etc., and if more attention were paid to those people who are suffering their own private hells, maybe, just maybe, children and adults living their lives would continue to do so. Adding six more (different or the same) laws aren't going to make the least bit of difference if present laws are ignored, don't you think?

Aug. 10 2012 03:16 PM

Senator Gianaris talks of using California Law for a model. I lived in California for 18 years before coming back and complied with their gun laws. A few (very few) aspects of it are sensible, to be true. However, California requires NO license for hangun possession in one's home or business nor is one required to transport handguns (for lawful purposes) in a locked container. California also has State Pre-emption law. NYS should first repeal the Sullivan Act, together with PL Sections 265 and 400 and pass State Pre-emption before overhauling Gun Control to emulate California and score more points with the Brady Campaign. CA gun laws may be easily verified on the CA Attorney General website (Firearms Division). This is a very well constructed site.

Aug. 10 2012 08:01 AM

Mass murderers and other violent felons are, by definition, lawbreakers. Can we agree that it is foolish to believe cold, calculating criminals and homicidal maniacs would suddenly begin to observe some new, finely crafted gun law from amongst the 22,000 plus gun restrictions existing currently in the United States? Gun laws only disarm the law-abiding citizen and are clearly unconstitutional civil rights violations. There is not a single shred of legitimate scholarly research or statistical evidence supporting the effectiveness of gun laws anywhere in the world. Gun controllers in office need to realize this issue is fast becoming "The Third Rail" of politics. A vote for gun control is a vote against the people, their civil rights and The United States Constitution. It should be a one-way ticket out of office for any politician so inclined. Criminals and the dangerously mentally ill should be kept away from both guns and society by enacting laws that are tough on crime instead of the rights of innocent, law abiding citizens.

Aug. 09 2012 01:04 PM

Spencer 60 - Canada is very serious about contraband. Also most of the guns used in crimes in Mexico come from the United States. The United States and Russia are the two main gun suppliers to the world (meaning illegal).

Lorri - there are other places with that type of population... and strict gun laws and there is no crime. You can't compare any big city to any tiny town... that's not even close.

Aug. 09 2012 08:42 AM
Brooklyn_Mom from Brooklyn

This is a serious subject but folks should watch The Simpsons-Season 9- Episode 5. Homer is in a gun shop shopping for a gun and the dialog is priceless:

Homer starts aiming unloaded gun at owner and pulling the trigger - like a 10 year old kid playing cops & robbers or some video game like "Gotham City Impostors."

Shop owner: "Wow careful there Annie Oakley"

Homer: "I don't have to be careful, I've gotta Gun."

more dialog...

Homer: "Just gimme my gun."

Shop owner: "Sorry, err, the Law requires a five day waiting period, we've got to run a background check."

Homer:"FIVE DAYS??!! but I am MAD NOW...scuffles w/shop owner... "I'd kill you if I had my gun."

Shop Owner: "Well, you don't."

Aug. 09 2012 07:54 AM
TNC from QNS

Spencer60, I am a supporter of gun rights and think the restrictions on ownership for citizens of NYC are completely crazy. I am actually in favor of open carry for law-abiding citizens.

However, it is simply not the case that the UK is awash in guns or that they have nearly the rate of homicide that we have. In 2009, the US has a population of 311.5 million and there were an estimated 13,756 homicides. That is a rate of about 5.0 per 100,000. Of these 9,203 were carried out with a firearm. The stats. for the UK are dramatically lower. In 2011-2012 the UK with population 56.1 million had an estimated 550 homicides, a rate of about 1.4 per 100,000. Of these 39 were carried out with a firearm.

Mark, of course they would not be joining the Occupiers. In their doomsday "Revolution" scenario they would be fighting the evil guvment (Obama) and his Occupy enablers. Crazy, but that is the way they see it. Occupy as the shock troops of Obama.

Aug. 09 2012 07:42 AM

It's hilarious to see conservatives bringing up some "right of revolution" as if they would support the anarchists in Occupy Wall St. if it came to that.

If you want stricter gun laws the best way to do it is for black people to start buying and carrying guns. If you look at the history of guns laws in the country they only became strict after the Black Panthers started exercising their right to bear arms! Mulford Act 1967? Gun Control Act of 1968? Yes, that's right. All the gun nuts are hoisted on their own racist petard. So where was the Black Panthers "right of revolution"?

Conservatives really live in an alternate reality. Of course you can see their grip on reality is weak as most of them are committed to worshiping bronze age mountain and sky gods and I guess once you make that "leap of faith" into fantasy anything else is possible.

Aug. 09 2012 05:12 AM
JustVic from Iowa

"What Good is Gun Control?"
There, fixed it for your. No charge.

Aug. 09 2012 01:04 AM

To Robert Reynolds, you are on to something. You are right!!! Although I am not a citizen of New York, facts are facts. Statistics prove the more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens the less the crime rate.

If you want other statistics to help you prove this measure, look up Kennesaw Georgia. In 1982 the passed and ordinance that made it mandatory for all head of households to own a firearm (with a few exceptions). There crime rate is virtually none. Their population grew from 5000 people in 1980 to 29,783 in 2009. As of the statistics from 2005 (these are the latest I have found) 0 Murder, 0 Rape, 7 robberies, 27 assaults.

The problem with the restrictions that the Governor is trying to impose on the people of New York is simply this. The criminals DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE RESTRICTIONS!!!! THEY GET THEM ILLEGALLY, AND SURELY DO NOT OBTAIN A BACK GROUND CHECK.

It seems to me that the Governor is hypocritical. He has protection yet wants to leave the civilians helpless to defend themselves.

Illegal drugs are ILLEGAL also, and we have the strictest drug laws in the United States that we have ever had. Yet, we also now have the worst drug problem this Nation has ever seen.

Car accidents are the number one killer of children under the age of 14 years old in the United States. Is anyone calling out to ban automobiles?

Or better yet, how many (legal killings have taken place via abortion this year?) I guarantee a lot more than any gun crime can ever account for. However, because the government approves that, it makes it alright??

Point is that we as a Nation, as law abiding citizens were born with the right to keep and bear arms and it SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. Not that well we can change the way you can obtain them, or this or that!!!! In our constitution it guarantees that right. That was written in a time where the weapons that the civilians held, were the same as what the military held. Because of our wonderful constitution and the bill of rights, we have the right of revolution if necessary.

(From Wikipedia)
The Right of Revolution as an individual or collective right
John Locke declared that under natural law, all people have the right to life, liberty, and estate; under the social contract, the people could instigate a revolution against the government when it acted against the interests of citizens, to replace the government with one that served the interests of citizens. In some cases, Locke deemed revolution an obligation. The right of revolution thus essentially acted as a safeguard against tyranny.

Aug. 08 2012 02:26 PM

I applaud Robert Reynolds for his effort to enact intelligent firearm legislation that restores the right of honest citizens to keep and bear arms as protected by the 2nd Amendment. So called "gun free zones" only serve to disarm the public and create "criminal protection zones" instead. The arbitrary denial of concealed carry permits in NY City runs counter to the intent and meaning of the U.S. Constitution.

FBI numbers show that in every locale where concealed carry laws have been made to conform with the Constitution, violent crime plummets. If the people of NY City want a safer town, they should allow the people the means to defend themselves. It really is that simple.

As it is now, the only concealed carry permits issued in NY City go to pals of the Mayor. And why should the Mayor care if you can defend yourself when he has his personal armed bodyguard detail to protect him. The people of NY City would be well served to vote out Mayor Bloomberg and everyone that sympathizes with him.

Aug. 07 2012 10:57 PM
Ellen from Brooklyn

I can't believe these measures are considered the toughest in the nation. One gun per month? A safety course? These seem common sense and not that restrictive. Allowing people to buy 12 guns a year is in no way the same as a ban. It seems like a good first step for responsible gun ownership.

Aug. 07 2012 02:17 PM

What they should be worried about is the effect it will have on crime. Right now, the only restraint that a criminal has is that someone they rob/mug will be armed. When that fear is gone, crime will quickly be as bad as in DC and Chicago.

Aug. 07 2012 11:35 AM
runcible from Queens

My God, I can't wait to move next month. It will be so nice to see this liberal nanny state disappear in my rear view mirror.

Aug. 07 2012 10:30 AM

Interesting how the pro-gun people say "it's no use policing the borders, they can't be controlled" when the issue is guns but they all seem to sing a different tune when it's related to immigration. How about this: When immigration is illegal only illegals will be immigrants? Personally not too enthusiastic about undocumented border-crossings but even less so about right-wing hypocrisy.

Aug. 07 2012 08:08 AM
Spencer60 from Atlanta GA

Unfortunately, the leaders of New York have looked at all the data showing legally armed citizens actually reduce the rate of violent crime, and ignored it.

They would rather pursue an agenda that flies in the face of all evidence and puts their citizens at risk for their own political gain.

Take a look at England and Australia. These island nations would score 110% on the gun control lobbies 'test'. They are island with easy border crossings.

Yet the criminals have more guns than ever, and they have established a thriving black market where everything is available for a price.

Violent crimes in these countries are soaring. In England violent crime is up over 100% since citizens were banned from having firearms.

Even if the entire US passed the same laws that NYC has, criminals would still get firearms. There's no way to control the borders in the US with Mexico and Canada.

Just look at Prohibition to see how effective a ban would be.

The states listed need to take a long hard look at their policies. Legal firearms make cities safer for law abiding citizens.

As custodians of these cities, their administration should be working towards more open and reasonable firearms laws, not the revers.

Aug. 07 2012 07:44 AM
Robert Reynolds from New York NY

In New York State, the police have no duty to provide police protection to any particular individual. The Courts in New York have held that "generally, a municipality may not be held liable for the failure to provide police protection because the duty to provide such protection is owed to the public at large, rather than to any particular individual" (Conde v. City of New York, 24 AD3d 595, 596 [2005]; see Cuffy v. City of New York, 69 NY2d 255, 260 [1987]).

As the Chair of the Public Safety Committee of Manhattan Community Board 12. I will be holding a Public Hearing in September 2012 on NYS Senate Bill S1427 & S1863 with an emphasis on self-defense education & firearm training for women.

Bill S1427 PURPOSE: This proposed constitutional amendment would provide within the New York State Constitution for a right of the people to keep and bear arms for traditionally recognized purposes

Bill S1427 PURPOSE: This legislation would remove a gun licensing officer's ability to deny or restrict the issuance of licenses to law abiding citizens who have successfully undergone the state's strict application process and appropriate New York State and Federal Bureau of Investigations fingerprint background check required under law. In addition, this bill will conform New York State law to current ATF requirements regarding background checks for firearms transfers.

September 12, 2012 at 6:30 PM at Isabella, 515 Audubon Avenue New York, NY 10040. If you live in New York State feel free to take a look at the information that I will be presenting as well as sign my on-line petition included at the link below. I hope that you will come out and support me as I support you. Fraternally.

Aug. 07 2012 07:20 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


About It's A Free Country ®

Archive of It's A Free Country articles and posts. Visit the It's A Free Country Home Page for lots more.

Supported by

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public.  Learn more at


Supported by