Gun stores in multiple New York counties will now be forced to warn people against buying their products.
Albany County passed an ordinance on Monday requiring gun dealers to post a warning about the purported dangers of gun ownership. Those who don’t comply with the ordinance could face a $1,000 fine or up to 15 days in jail. The ordinance is nearly identical to one passed by Westchester County in June.
“Access to a weapon or firearm in the home significantly increases the risk of suicide, homicide, death during domestic disputes and unintentional deaths to children, household members and others,” the warning reads. “If you or a loved one is experiencing distress and/or depression, call the crisis prevention and response team at (914) 925-5959 or the National Suicide Hotline at 988.”
The ordinances are part of a raft of recent gun restrictions that have sprung up as part of a backlash against the Supreme Court’s recent Bruen ruling striking down New York’s restrictive gun-carry law. Lawmakers in states affected by the ruling have responded by doubling down on restrictions over how guns can be sold, who can buy them, and where they can carry them. Gun-rights advocates have already begun to challenge those new laws, and the New York warning sign ordinances may soon face challenges on both First and Second Amendment grounds.
Additionally, the warning’s claims that gun ownership increases the risk of suicide, homicide, and accidental death are highly politicized. Many gun-rights advocates dispute a causal relationship exists between negative outcomes and lawful gun ownership. The studies often cited by gun-control advocates on the dangers of gun ownership have also been called into question by some researchers.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun dealers, called the ordinances counterproductive.
“This ordinance is nothing but window dressing that does not address the need for improved public safety,” Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the group, told The Reload. “The county should be focused on enforcing the law and locking up criminals instead of chilling the God-given rights of their citizens and business owners with threats of jail time.”
However, supporters argued the measure is “life-saving” and necessary.
“The gun industry likes to claim that more guns make us safer, but potential gun owners should know that there are risks involved with keeping guns in the home,” John Geurds, a volunteer with the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action, told WRGB. “and that it’s crucial to ensure that they’re securely stored.”
“Awareness and access to support services are important tools in our ongoing efforts to prevent tragedies caused by gun violence in our communities,” Majority Leader Dennis Feeney said in a press release.
Dustin Reidy. the Democrat who sponsored the bill, said it was a “great start” and part of a larger push for more gun restrictions.
“It takes a simple, straightforward, and measured step,” he told WRGB. “I think we need to do everything we can at every level of government to help address the epidemic of gun violence in America, Albany County, and New York State.”
Republicans in the county legislature attacked the bill as “ineffective” and said their attempts to strip the jail time attached to the ordinance were rebuffed by Democrats.
“We’ve been assured by the Democrats that no judge will ever impose such a jail sentence, which makes it pretty plain that there is no need for this onerous penalty in what is being sold as a law to educate the public,” Republican Albany County Legislature Minority Frank Mauriello told the news station.
Oliva said the legislatures should have tried to work with the industry on its suicide prevention and safe storage initiatives rather than subject dealers to criminal punishment. He accused the legislature of playing politics instead of addressing the issue in an effective way.
“The Albany County Legislature suffers from the same unwillingness to address crime that New York state and federal lawmakers and instead focus their efforts on vilifying law-abiding gun owners and lawful firearm retailers through compelled speech under the threat of jail time,” he told The Reload. “A better use of the county’s efforts would be to work alongside NSSF in our Real Solutions. Safer Communities efforts that address the need for safe storage of firearms when not in use and suicide prevention. These are proven efforts that have been recognized for their efficacy by the National Safety Council’s Green Cross for Safety awards and the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Albany County officials would rather ostracize gun owners and firearm retailers as a disease to be cured instead of rights to be respected.”
The New York ordinances were inspired by an ordinance requiring dealers to post warning signs in King County, Washington, that was enacted back in 2018.