Governor Andrew Cuomo visited Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School last week to kick off a statewide campaign to pass the Red Flag Gun Protection Bill, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order Bill.
The bus tour brought together local elected officials, school staff and students in support of the bill, which would prevent individuals determined by a court to have the potential to cause themselves or others serious harm from purchasing, possessing or attempting to purchase or possess any type of firearm, including hand guns, rifles or shotguns. This legislation builds on New York’s strongest in the nation gun laws and prior legislative efforts, and, if passed, would make New York the first in the United States to empower its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention.
Along with Plainview’s Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lorna Lewis, Principal James Murray and the board of education, Cuomo was joined by County Executive Laura Curran, Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hocul, Assemblyman Charles Lavine and Legislator Arnie Drucker, among others. The governor, addressing the students in the crowd, said that the country cannot merely rely on political leaders to make change.
“Let me tell you a little secret, when you go in this building and they teach you about politics and history, they make it sound like you have great political leaders who started the change. [That] is certainly not true today,” said Cuomo. “Change today comes when people demand change and very often the politicians follow the people and that’s what we need to do on this issue. You cannot leave it to political process. We have to make it clear that people, moms, students, everyone who has common sense demands that the political system do something about it and then you watch how fast the political system responds.”
Under current state law, firearms may be removed from a person subject to a temporary order of protection issued by a criminal or family court, but a court can only issue a temporary order of protection in connection with a criminal or family offense proceeding. No law currently exists in New York State that enables a court to issue an order to temporarily seize firearms from a person who is believed to pose a severe threat of harm to himself, herself, or others unless that person has also been accused of a crime or family offense.
Cuomo said that this shortcoming in the law persists, despite the fact that family members often contact law enforcement when they fear that a loved one poses a threat of violence to others or themselves. In addition, no state in the nation currently empowers its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention.
The bill touted by the governor in Plainview would provide all necessary procedural safeguards to ensure that no firearm is removed without due process while ensuring that tragedies like the school shooting in Parkland, FL, and the mass killing at the Waffle House in Nashville, TN, are not repeated. In both of those cases, the shooter was reported by multiple sources to be disturbed and dangerous yet was allowed to purchase and possess deadly firearms. An extreme risk protection order could have prevented countless, needless deaths.
“New York will not stand by and wait for Washington to take action against the gun violence and school shootings that have become all too common in this country,” said Cuomo. “Parents should not have to fear sending their children to school every day and teachers should not have to wonder if they will return home from work. Together, we can and will pass this common sense gun legislation and we will continue to fight to ensure gun violence has no place in this great state.”
Plainview’s Superintendent Dr. Lorna Lewis said that ending the scourge of gun violence is perhaps the most important task any leader—in government or in the community—must take on.
“Fortunately, in New York, we have a governor who is committed to taking action and making impactful change that will enhance safety in our schools,” said Lewis. “The Red Flag bill will save lives and bring appropriate focus on mental health. I encourage our legislature to come together in bi-partisan spirit and pass the bill the Governor advanced now before any more of our children and staff suffer.”