New York City lawmakers are still determining which parts of the famed Times Square tourist area will be considered a “gun-free zone” as a new state law limiting where firearms can be legally carried in public is set to go into effect Thursday.
Other areas the law defines as sensitive include government-owned buildings, schools, health care facilities, places of worship and public transportation. People who carry a gun in a prohibited location could be charged with a felony under the law.
The New York City Council is still hammering out the details of a bill that would delineate the boundaries of Times Square, which sprawls the Midtown region in the borough of Manhattan.
To ensure there are guidelines on Thursday, Times Square will be under emergency rules created by the New York Police Department and the city, council spokeswoman Breeana Mulligan told CNN.
There are several exceptions to the rules, including for those who live in the area, who work in the area or are transiting through Times Square.
New “gun-free zone” signs are expected to be posted in Times Square on Wednesday. They will be placed at every entry and exit point of the area, according to Robert Barrows, the head of NYPD’s legal operations.
To help people understand which areas are gun-free zones, the city will also implement video messaging boards in certain locations.
Other aspects of the new law include a strict licensing process to obtain a concealed-carry permit, and it also requires background checks for ammunition sales.
Under the measure, gun owners will be required to store firearms in safe places in their homes if people under the age of 18 live in the residence – an increase from the previously established age of 16.
Efforts to track gun purchases
The new law comes at a time New York City is struggling with gun violence, despite Mayor Eric Adams attempts to curb it through a multi-point plan he unveiled in January after taking office.
The city is also seeing a more than 30% increase in major crimes through August 28 compared to last year, according to data from the NYPD.
In an effort to crack down on illegal gun purchases, city officials have asked Visa, Mastercard and American Express to approve the creation of a merchant category code for gun shops across the country.
Such codes are already used for nearly any other good or service that can be purchased. If created for gun transactions, it can potentially make it easier to spot unusually large purchases of firearms and ammunition or purchases made in multiple stores.
Purchases currently made at gun shops come across as “miscellaneous” making it difficult to spot a suspicious sale.
“When you buy an airline ticket or pay for your groceries, your credit card company has a special code for those retailers. It’s just commonsense that we have the same policies in place for gun and ammunition stores,” Adams said in a news release.
Mastercard said it is reviewing the proposal and how it could be implemented.
“This will help us continue to deliver a payments system that supports all legal purchases while protecting the privacy and decisions of individual cardholders,” spokesperson Seth Eisen said.
CNN reached out to Visa and American Express for comment.
The credit card companies are voting members of the International Organization on Standardization, which sets the category codes.
At least two credit companies must agree for the merchant codes to be applied to gun stores – though they have not supported the proposal in the past, according to New York City Comptroller Brad Lander.
CNN’s Rob Frehse, Nicki Brown, Mark Morales and Melanie Schuman contributed to this report.