The Examiner

Westchester’s Warning Label Measure for Gun Buyers Signed into Law

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Westchester County Executive George Latimer speaks last week, surrounded by Barry Graubert from Moms Demand Action, left, and Board of Legislators Chair Catherine Borgia, about the new warning label to be placed at all establishments that have retail sales of guns in the county. Latimer signed the bill moments later

County Executive George Latimer signed legislation last week that requires a warning notice be posted where firearms are sold and licenses are issued in Westchester to remind gun owners of the risks involved.

The law, which Latimer compared to a warning label on cigarette packs, would mandate that every person, firm or corporation in Westchester that sells weapons to post a notice at the entrance to the establishment and at least one other location for buyers to see.

The warning must be no smaller than 24-point type in bold and on paper that is at least eight-and-a-half by 11 inches.

“Access to a weapon or firearm increases the risk of suicide, homicide, death during domestic disputes and unintentional deaths to children, household members and others,” the posted warning will read. “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.”

The county clerk’s office would also be required to furnish a written copy of the warning to anyone seeking a gun license.

The Board of Legislators had unanimously approved the measure before Latimer signed it in front of the County Center last Thursday, a location symbolically chosen because it was the site of gun shows when former county executive Rob Astorino was in office, said board Chairwoman Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining). The measure had been previously introduced by former legislator Ruth Walter.

Latimer dismissed any notion that the law is unnecessary or could be considered grandstanding during a time when a rash of mass shootings has plagued the nation.

“This is not radical, this is rational,” Latimer said. “Westchester County is a rational, pragmatic county that does things to help people live longer lives and live better lives.”

County Legislator Colin Smith (D-Peekskill) said the law “is a basic, sensible” measure, citing a recent statistic reported in The New England Journal of Medicine that gun-related deaths are now the leading cause of death among children in the United States, surpassing car accidents.

“It’s a gentle reminder to gun buyers that there are risks involved of keeping a weapon in the home that can reach beyond just the gun owner, to anyone that comes into the house hold,” Smith said.

Westchester’s step to a include a warning at the point of purchase and when acquiring a gun license may seem small, but since the start of the pandemic there have been many new gun owners, said Barry Graubart, a volunteer with the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action.

Graubart said guns are more dangerous in the home. For those who use a firearm in a suicide attempt, the person kills themselves roughly 90 percent of the time, a much greater percentage than with pills or by other means, he said.

“It shouldn’t even be that hard to think through, that a gun in the house adds risk, right. It’s intuitive,” Graubart said. “But the gun industry has spent the last three of four decades trying to sell you on the opposite, that a gun makes you safer, and we know that’s not true. We have the data and we see it.”

County Legislator Jewel Williams Johnson (D-Greenburgh) said people must be fully aware of the risks and consequences of having a gun.

“If this gun warning label (prevents) one suicide death, one domestic violence gun issue or one child’s death it is more than worth it,” Johnson said.

Borgia said she believes the law would withstand any potential legal challenge and hopes the state legislature considers a similar measure in the near future.

“We’re going to make it our mission to encourage the state to make it a statewide law,” she said. “We like nothing better than when our Westchester County laws get preempted.”

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