ALBANY – Family members, school administrators and law enforcement officials can seek to get guns confiscated from people deemed by courts to be an “extreme risk” to themselves or others, under legislation signed Monday.
The “red flag” law, as it’s called, takes effect in 180 days.
The Legislature overwhelmingly passed the measure, along with other gun control initiatives, in late January. The other bills – including changes to the gun purchase background check process, bans on bump stock devices and from teachers being able to possess weapons on school grounds – have not yet been acted upon by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The red flag law “will save lives and doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights,” Cuomo said Monday in New York City.
Cuomo was joined at a signing ceremony for the red flag bill by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as various gun control advocates, including Linda Beigel Schulman, a Long Island woman whose son, slain schoolteacher Scott Beigel, was among the students and staff killed last year at Florida’s Parkland school mass shooting.
“This gun violence issue is a national health epidemic in our country. And Mr. President, if you want to talk about emergencies, this is an emergency,” Pelosi said. The House in Washington is advancing gun control measures later this week, she said.
The legislation was subject to intense debate from gun rights advocates in the Legislature when it passed in January. Among the complaints is the difficulty – and financial expense – individuals will have in trying to get their guns returned if or when they are no longer deemed a threat.
Under the new law, school officials, family members and police can apply to the courts to get a “temporary extreme risk protection order” against an individual. If initially approved by a judge, the individual would be banned from buying, possessing or attempting to buy firearms for up to six days. During that time, a hearing would have to be held on extending the length of the order up to one year. It permits police to confiscate any weapons possessed by the individual.
Tom King, executive director of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and a board member of the National Rifle Association, last month called the gun control package approved by the Legislature “a massive assault” on Second Amendment rights.
“I don’t want mentally challenged individuals getting a firearm, but this red flag law lacks any sense of due process,” King said when the bill passed.
The authors of the bill, however, say there are ample protections built into the law to protect due process of gun owners and buyers.
“Family and household members are often the first to know when someone is experiencing a crisis or exhibiting dangerous behavior. They may even report their fears to law enforcement, but in New York, as in many other states, law enforcement officers may not have the authority to intervene based on the evidence they are provided, sometimes resulting in preventable tragedies, including interpersonal gun violence or suicide involving a gun,” states a legislative memo in support of the legislation.
California enacted a similar law five years ago.
New York in 2013 enacted the SAFE Act gun control law. Its provisions included a requirement that mental health professionals report on individuals they consider a threat to themselves or others. Cuomo on Monday said the names of 130,000 people have been placed in that mental health database since the SAFE Act was enacted into law and who have been prevented from buying or possessing a gun.