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Law reflects new approach to gun control

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    The Red Flag Law, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February, went into effect this weekend.
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    A new state law took effect this weekend giving New Yorkers the ability to petition courts to prevent someone they believe to be dangerous from acquiring or owning a firearm.
August 26, 2019 04:03 pm

ALBANY — The Red Flag Law went into effect in New York state this weekend, allowing court petitions to take guns away from people who may be a danger to themselves or others.

The legislation was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February and went into effect Saturday.

“This law makes New York the first state in the nation to empower teachers, law enforcement and family members to pursue court intervention when they believe someone is a danger to themselves or others,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The Red Flag Law allows citizens to apply to the court for an “extreme risk protection order” to prevent someone they feel might pose a threat by purchasing or possessing a firearm. The court would then issue a temporary order based on several criteria including threats of violence, violations of orders of protection, reckless use of firearms, evidence of ongoing or recent substance abuse or pending charges involving a firearm.

Once the court issues a temporary order, the court is required to hold a hearing in three to six business days.

Cuomo said the new law will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

“Nearly half of all perpetrators of mass shootings exhibit warning signs before the shooting,” Cuomo said. “This new law will help keep guns away from those dangerous people in the first place and prevent needless tragedies.”

Hudson resident Michael Spann said he supports the law.

“This seems like an obvious step to take after all the shootings we’ve had,” Spann said. “I don’t see how you can oppose this.”

In 2017, Columbia County law enforcement agencies reported 19 violent crimes committed with a firearm, a rate of 31.3 crimes per 100,000 people, according to the most recent data available from the New York State Bureau of Criminal Justice Services. During the same year, Greene County law enforcement reported five violent crimes committed with a firearm, a rate of 10.6 crimes per 100,000 people.

Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, said the Red Flag Law will not curb gun violence.

“I’ve been very vocal about my stance on this wave of gun legislation — you cannot legislate evil, plain and simple,” Tague said. “Bad people will find a way to commit terrible actions, and solely focusing on punishing law-abiding citizens is a disservice that distracts us from the real conversation we should be having, namely how we treat mental health issues in this country.”

Tague went on to say that New York state has “some of the most restrictive laws in the country.”

Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-106, said the new law could keep people safer.

“The right to bear arms is one of the founding principles of our nation, but a critical part of exercising that right is doing so safely and responsibly. That’s why I voted for the Red Flag law,” Barrett said. “It protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners, while taking a monumental step to help prevent unimaginable tragedies. Family members, school officials and law enforcement are often the first ones to see clear warning signs that an individual is a danger to themselves or others. This law will help them speak up, take action and keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who pose a serious threat.”

When the governor signed the Red Flag bill into law earlier this year, Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley called it a continued attack on New Yorkers’ Second Amendment rights.

“I am concerned about law-abiding citizens who own guns. Leave them alone. It’s their Second Amendment right,” Seeley said at the time. “If you commit a crime with a gun, it is game on. We are coming to take your guns away.”

This year, Cuomo signed into law a slew of new gun-control bills, including laws banning bump stocks, which speed up the firing rate of guns; new regulations on gun storage; and enhanced, stricter waiting periods for individuals who are not immediately approved to purchase a firearm; and bans on armed teachers in schools.

Seventeen states in the nation currently have a form of a “red flag law” on the books in addition to New York, including Florida, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana and California. Most of the laws were passed after the February 2018 massacre in Parkland, Florida, where a 19-year-old man used a semi-automatic assault weapon to kill 17 students. Prior to the mass shooting at the school, only five states had such laws.

The New York Times News Service contributed to this report.