Brooklyn officials behind sweeping gun laws that just passed NYS legislature
Gov expected to sign ‘red flag’ bill and other gun measures
It’s going to be easier to keep guns out of the hands of troubled individuals in New York state following the passage of a package of gun control bills in the state legislature on Tuesday, advocates say.
New York State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, both representing Brooklyn districts, were major forces behind the bills, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated he backs.
The most notable part of the package is a “red flag” bill, which allows a new type of order of protection, called an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), to be served on people thought to be dangerous to themselves or others. The order would allow removal of their guns if a family member, law enforcement officer or educator successfully petitioned the court.
Kavanagh (western Brooklyn waterfront and lower Manhattan) and Simon (Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights), along with state Sen. Brad Hoylman (Manhattan), were the sponsors of the Senate and Assembly ERPO bills. ERPO passed the Assembly but was rejected by the Senate in early 2018. The newly Democratic Senate changed the equation.
“Until now, this bill, which we have been working to pass for several years, has been blocked by Senate Republicans, in spite of strong support from gun violence prevention experts, district attorneys, police, doctors and nurses, mental health organizations, concerned families across the state, and gun violence survivors,” Kavanagh said in a statement.
Simon said, “Too often, we are able to see the warning signs that an individual close to us poses a risk of serious harm to themselves or to others, but lack a mechanism to prevent unthinkable tragedies such as interpersonal gun violence or suicide. This legislation will give family members, law enforcement, and school personnel the tools they need to prevent these kinds of tragedies before they happen.”
Red flag laws are designed with troubled people like Nikolas Cruz, the teenager charged in the Parkland shooting, in mind. Cruz had numerous run-ins with police and a history of violence. Despite these warning signs, there was no law at the time that would make him ineligible to purchase guns.
Under ERPO, if the court agrees that 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. 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.
A number of groups have been pushing for the ERPO bill, including NYS New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Giffords, Moms Demand Action, the Brady Campaign, the Citizens Crime Commission of NYC, many district attorneys and prosecutors, and more.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said in a statement that the legislators passed the bills “in the face of pressure and threats from extremist ideologues.”
Adams is pushing for measures to compel safer gun storage, microstamping of ammunition and the establishment of a firearm violence research institute. He is also an advocate for smart gun technologies such as fingerprint recognition and micro-cameras, limits on assault weapon ammunition sales and social media checks for gun permit approvals.
Thirteen states have passed similar ERPO measures. The law’s effects on suicide rates are mixed. Studies of the ERPO’s effects in Connecticut have shown a decrease in suicide by gun, offset by a roughly equivalent increase in suicides by other measures, according to a study published on August 1, 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal Psychiatric Services. Indiana demonstrated an overall decrease in suicides following passage of ERPO measures, according to the study.
The package also includes bills to ensure comprehensive background checks, ban bump stocks, prevent teachers from being armed on school grounds, review mental health records of out-of-state applicants for gun permits and promote gun buyback programs.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case challenging a New York City gun control law that prohibits gun owners from taking their guns out of the city. For example, some owners want to practice their skills at upstate ranges but are not allowed to do so under current laws.
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