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Brooklyn officials back bill removing guns from people likely to hurt self or others

January 18, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn officials are sponsoring a bill that would take guns away from people found by the court to be likely to seriously harm themselves or others. At the podium at Wednesday’s Albany press conference is state Sen. Brian Kavanagh; to the far right is Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon; to the far left is state Sen. Brad Hoylman. Others pictured include representatives from gun safety advocate groups. Photo courtesy of the Kavanagh's office
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Two Brooklyn officials are sponsoring a bill that would take guns away from people found by a court to be likely to seriously harm themselves or others.

Called Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO), the measure would be similar to an order of protection for victims of domestic violence, according to state Sen. Brian Kavanagh (Brooklyn waterfront, lower Manhattan), co-sponsor of the senate version of the bill with state Sen. Brad Hoylman from Manhattan. Sponsoring the bill in the Assembly is Jo Anne Simon (Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill).

The bill (S7133/A8976) would allow family members or law enforcement officials to petition a state court to issue an order preventing the accused person from buying or possessing guns — even before any actual crime is committed.

If the court agrees the accused is likely to harm themselves or others, they would be required to surrender their guns, and police would be sent to search their home or apartment in order to confiscate their firearms.

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Family members often observe the signs of impending violence firsthand, Simon said in a statement explaining her support for the bill. “But in New York, even if these concerns are reported, law enforcement has no authority to act and help prevent tragedies including interpersonal gun violence or suicide involving a gun.”

Other backing the bill include advocates such as New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City and more.

Richard Aborn, president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, said, “There are far too many examples of individuals exhibiting early warning signs of violence prior to committing mass shootings, police ambushes, domestic violence … We must give law enforcement and families that power; the power to stop tragedies before they occur.”

Protection Against Being Unfairly Accused?

The complaining family member or law enforcement officials would have to provide clear documentation to back up their claims, according to the language of the bill. This could include a threat or the use of physical force, a violation of an order of protection, weapons offenses or charges, the reckless display of a firearm or evidence of alcohol or drug abuse.

Sponsors say the language of the bill protects people who are unfairly accused. The order would last for one year, and the accused person would have one opportunity during that year to present evidence to the court as to why the order should be lifted.

If the order is not renewed or if it is lifted, the guns would be returned and all records of the proceedings would be sealed.

But some worry that individuals will be punished for crimes they never actually commit — as depicted in the 2002 film “Minority Report,” where people are imprisoned not for what they actually do, but for what they are foreseen to do.

In December, Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a proposal to remove firearms from those accused of committing domestic violence crimes. His reasoning included the fact that in nine of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, the shooter had an existing record of committing violence against women, or threatening, harassing or disparaging women. In 2016, guns were used in 25 domestic homicides in New York state.

When asked to comment on the governor’s proposal, National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action New York State Liaison Darin Goens told the Brooklyn Eagle, “This bill should frighten anyone who believes in the fundamental principles of our judicial system. Governor Cuomo proposes to revoke a constitutional rights based on an accusation and the National Rifle Association strongly opposes this serious subversion of due process. Anyone convicted of domestic violence is already prohibited from owning a firearm. This has the potential to be another embarrassing failure alongside his disastrous SAFE Act.”

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