Taking guns away from risky owners aim of New York State bill
ERPO edges forward in NYS Assembly
With the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, still reverberating through the nation’s collective conscience, a bill to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals has taken another step forward in the New York State Assembly.
A new type of order of protection, called Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), cleared the Assembly’s Codes Committee on Thursday. Backers say if Florida had a law like this in place, the Parkland massacre might have been prevented.
The bill was introduced by two Brooklyn officials — Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon and Senator Brian Kavanagh — along with State Sen. Brad Hoylman (Manhattan) in January. It will now move to the floor of the full Assembly. No date has been set for a vote, but odds are good for passage, considering that the Assembly passed the bill last year, when Sen. Kavanagh was an Assemblymember.
The bill faces more difficulty in the Republican-dominated state Senate, where it failed to pass last year. With 29 sponsors in the Senate — almost the entire Democratic membership — backers hope the momentum will help the bill pass there this session.
Nikolas Cruz, the teenager arrested and charged in the Parkland shooting, had numerous run-ins with police, left threatening comments on social media and had a history of self-harm and violence. Despite these warning signs, however, there is currently no law that that would make him ineligible to purchase guns.
ERPO (S7133/A8976) would allow family members or law enforcement officials in New York state 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.
Kavanagh and Simon said in a joint statement on Friday that they were pleased that their bill passed the Assembly Codes Committee unanimously, with full support from both Republicans and Democrats.
“The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida has shaken the country to its core. We have learned that the shooter had a history of escalating violence and that people close to him were concerned about his behavior and reported it to law enforcement — but there was no mechanism for them to act. A temporary Extreme Risk Protection Order can prevent tragedies in cases like this,” they said.
Protecting the Rights of Gun Owners?
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.
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 in January, “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.”
ERPO Being Considered in 30 States
On Friday, American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention — a non-partisan coalition of legislators founded and chaired by Kavanagh — announced that lawmakers in 30 states have introduced or are planning to introduce ERPO legislation.
Bills have been introduced or soon will be in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin, along with New York.
Five states including California, Washington, Indiana, Connecticut, and Oregon have already adopted ERPO laws.
ERPO is just one measure being considered to combat gun violence in New York. On Tuesday, New York Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention — a bicameral coalition of New York lawmakers led by Kavanagh — announced an entire package of gun-related bills.
Besides ERPO, the package includes legislation that would ban bump stocks, make background checks more effective, prohibit people convicted of hate crimes or domestic violence from possessing guns, prohibit guns undetectable to x-rays and other devices, mandate safe storage of guns, require microstamping of ammo and other measures.
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