New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks onstage at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Commemorates Its 25th Year And Honors Founder Sir Elton John During New York Fall Gala at Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Nov. 7, 2017 in New York City.
Dimitrios Kambouris—Getty Images
By Abigail Abrams
December 13, 2017

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday proposed legislation that would take away firearms from anyone convicted of domestic violence.

Under New York’s current laws, only domestic abusers convicted of felony or “serious” offenses are prohibited from owning guns. Cuomo said he wanted to close the loophole that allows gun-owners convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors, including some assault and battery charges or strangulation, to retain their firearms.

“This year will be remembered as the year of reckoning, when both the tragedy of mass shootings and cultural and institutional harassment of women became impossible to ignore,” the governor, a Democrat, said in a statement.

The governor said he would push to expand the type of firearms that those convicted of domestic violence must surrender. Existing law covers handguns, but Cuomo wants it to include rifles and shotguns as well. His proposal would also require judges to mandate the surrender of all firearms, including rifles and shotguns, when they issue an order of protection in domestic violence cases.

The proposal follows a flood of requests from gun-safety advocates. Cuomo’s announcement comes barely a month after a shooter opened fire on his mother-in-law’s Texas church, killing 26 people and injuring others, after a long history of domestic violence. It’s become a disturbing pattern of mass shootings. As Cuomo noted in his announcement, most of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history have been perpetrated by individuals with a history of violence against women or a record of harassment against them.

That trend goes beyond the biggest incidents. Among all mass shootings (defined as incidents in which four or more people, not including the shooter, are killed with a firearm) between 2009 and 2016, the gun-violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety found that in 54% of the events, an intimate partner or family member was among the victims. Most of those shootings took place in a private home. But among 46 mass shootings in public places since 2009, 33% of the shooters had a history of violence against women, as TIME previously reported.

While a record of domestic violence does not predict mass shootings, research has shown that legislation restricting firearms for domestic violence offenders can have a positive effect. Researchers at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice found in a study published last month that state laws requiring those under domestic violence restraining orders to relinquish their firearms — like the one Cuomo seeks to put in place — were associated with a 12% decrease in firearm-related intimate partner homicides.

As New York considers tightening access to guns, lawmakers at the federal level appear to be moving in the opposite direction. Cuomo’s proposal comes just a week after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to expand gun rights by passing a measure that would allow owners with concealed-carry permits to bring their firearm almost anywhere in the country—including states with more restrictive laws.

But April Zeoli, lead researcher on the Michigan State study on firearm restrictions, said she believes that Cuomo’s proposal could lead to similar laws in other states down the road.

“New York and California tend to move on these types of laws more quickly. They can provide us with evidence of what happens when a state passes this kind of law,” Zeoli says. “We can evaluate these states to see what the evidence is. And use that to inform what other states would do in the future.”

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