In the wake of the Charleston church shooting, politicians in the US are calling for universal background checks on all gun purchases, but critics argue that would violate the right to self-defense enshrined in the Second Amendment.
Nowhere is this argument more eloquently articulated than in New York City, where gun control measures have long been on the cards.
The US has the world’s highest murder rate, but New York State is a major exporter of guns, making it a popular target for gun control activists.
The city has banned gun shows and restricted gun ownership for gun enthusiasts and hunters.
But gun control advocates are increasingly seeing an opportunity in the city’s new, more gun-friendly laws, which take effect in April.
The New York Post reported this week that Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has called for a nationwide ban on gun ownership, has signed legislation requiring a background check for every gun purchase in the state.
In New York, where more than 1.3 million people are estimated to own a firearm, there are about 8.5 million guns in circulation.
The City Council, however, wants to make that number as high as 16 million.
“We need to move this needle so that we have the safest society in the world,” said New York’s City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito.
“And the first thing we have to do is make sure that we’re able to keep guns out of criminals’ hands.”
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, right, shakes hands with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in June.
Bloomberg/Getty Images Cuomo’s push for universal gun checks came after a similar push in Washington DC, where lawmakers voted to tighten the background check rules, which include an annual waiting period before a buyer can purchase a firearm.
New York state is one of three states that require background checks, the others are California and Connecticut.
Gun control advocates in New Jersey say they expect the new laws to force a statewide ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons, which have proven deadly in recent years.
The state’s ban on sales of semi and automatic weapons was lifted in May after the Supreme Court ruled in December that the Second Ammendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment does not extend to them.
“If we can make it as easy as possible for people to buy a firearm for their own protection, then we’re going to be in a position where we can keep more guns in the hands of criminals and keep a national gun-control solution,” said Senator Joseph Kyrillos, a Democrat from New Jersey, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“It’s the best way to keep the guns out,” he said.
Kyrillis’ proposal to limit semi- and automatic-weapons sales to private buyers also comes after the December Supreme Court ruling that left intact New Jersey’s ban.
Kyrilos, who was a member of the panel that upheld New Jersey gun restrictions in 2013, said his bill would make it easier for private buyers to purchase guns in New Brunswick, a state that already has some of the most lax gun laws in the country.
Kyrils bill also would make certain guns sold in New Hampshire would have a lifetime ban on owning them.
Kyrills bill is the first to include a ban on all sales of automatic weapons.
New Jersey currently has a two-step system for making gun purchases: A background check can be conducted by the person making the purchase or the seller.
If the background-check check indicates the purchaser is prohibited from owning a gun, the gun can be confiscated.
New Yorkers would still be able to buy firearms from licensed gun dealers.
New Yorker Adam Kokesh said his mother and sister were worried about having their weapons confiscated.
“She told me, ‘It’s going to happen.
If it happens, you can’t go anywhere,'” he said, adding that his mother’s gun had never been used.
The law was passed in 2013 and signed by Gov.
Chris Christie in 2015, and it has since been amended by the legislature three times.
Kyrillas bill is one among a growing number of bills introduced in New Yorkers’ state legislature that would allow people to carry guns into bars, theaters and public buildings.
The proposed bill would also allow people with criminal records to possess firearms for the purpose of self-protection, a provision that would make New Yorkers eligible for a permit to carry concealed weapons.
Some other proposed bills would expand background checks for gun shows, require people to pass a criminal background check, allow New Yorkers to buy guns from licensed dealers and ban ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Many gun control supporters, including the American Civil Liberties Union, said they were worried that these measures could further restrict gun ownership and gun owners.
“Our country has a history of being the only developed country in the developed world that allows the public to have firearms for self-defence,” said Daniel Webster, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU of New York.
“But these laws have not been passed in New Zealand, they