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New York’s ‘red flag’ gun bill goes into effect on Saturday

August 23, 2019 Mary Frost
New York State’s “red flag” gun bill goes into effect on Saturday. Shown at Thursday’s press conference: NY State Senator Brian Kavanagh at podium. Left of Kavanagh is state Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. To the right and behind Kavanagh is Sen. Brad Hoylman. Photo courtesy of the Office NY State Senator Brian Kavanagh
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After years of efforts from gun control advocates, New York State’s “red flag” gun bill goes into effect on Saturday.

The bill allows a new type of order of protection, called an Extreme Risk Protection Order, 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 petitions the court.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law in February.

New York State Sen. Brian Kavanagh (who represents the western Brooklyn waterfront and lower Manhattan) and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon (who represents Carroll Gardens and Brooklyn Heights) were major forces behind ERPO, along with State Sen. Brad Hoylman of Manhattan.

They were joined on Thursday by numerous officials, district attorney representatives and gun control organizations to celebrate the launch.

“Saturday, Aug. 24th is a big day for everyone who joined the effort we began in 2014 to empower New Yorkers to save lives with Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” Kavanagh said in a release.

He said that the bill’s success would depend on “our ability to make sure everyone is aware of the new law — not only judges, district attorneys, police officers, and educators, but also the general public who may become aware that someone close to them poses a danger to themselves or others.”

Simon said that people are “sick of the excuses that have made gun violence par for the course in this country. In fact, it is not normal and it is a uniquely American problem.”

Hoylman linked the bill to the recent spate of mass shootings around the country, and President Donald Trump’s failure to move ahead with control measures.

“At a time when we can’t count on our president to respond to two mass shootings in 24 hours with any real proposals to prevent gun violence, it is more important than ever that New York step up to the plate and do what’s necessary,” he said.

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.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement that he welcomed ERPO. “When appropriate, my office is ready to file such applications while ensuring that every individual’s due process rights are protected.”

Bronx DA Darcel Clark, Manhattan DA (and National Co-Chair of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence) Cy Vance Jr. and acting Queens DA John Ryan also said they backed the legislation.

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.

One example of the type of tragedy a red flag law might have stopped is the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

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.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said in January 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 social media checks for gun permit approvals.

Sen. Kavanagh announced on Thursday the creation of a task force that will include the courts, officials, schools and others to share best practices, ensure the law is properly implemented and monitor the results.

ERPO passed the Assembly but was rejected by the Senate in early 2018. The newly Democratic Senate pushed the bill through in January.

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