New York’s Newest Gun Law Gives the State a Dangerous Amount of Power
On February 25, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new gun control bill into law known as the “red flag” law. According to Cuomo, the red flag law will “save lives and doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights.” However, he may be wrong on both counts.
Under the red flag law, police, school officials, and family members can petition the courts in New York to issue a “temporary extreme risk protection order” against an individual in the state. If this order is initially approved by a judge, the individual will be unable to purchase or possess a firearm for a six-day period of time.
During this six-day period, a hearing is held to determine if the protection order should be extended for up to one year. If the order is extended, the individual is unable to purchase or own a firearm for the order’s duration, and the police are given the right to confiscate any firearms that the individual does possess.
The primary purpose of the law is to prevent tragedies such as the Parkland shooting, where family members and school officials were aware of the shooter’s troubling behavior, but law enforcement was unable to act. While the law may sound innocent enough if not beneficial on the surface, it creates a number of potential problems and gives the state of New York a dangerous amount of power.
The biggest issue with the red flag law is a lack of due process. Right now, it’s difficult to know exactly how the law will end up being applied, and the application may end up varying from judge to judge. Based only on the word of family members, the police, and/or school administrators, an individual in New York can have their Constitutional rights stripped without being afforded any chance to prove their innocence.
Taking away someone’s Second Amendment rights without a trial is no better than throwing someone in prison without a trial. It’s a direct violation of a person’s right to due process and an incredible amount of power for both law enforcement and the judicial system to wield.
The red flag law also creates the potential for abuse by individuals outside of judicial and law enforcement officials. For example, an abusive ex-boyfriend could petition the courts in New York to issue a protective order against his ex-girlfriend. If his statement is compelling enough, the police would then remove the woman’s only source of protection against her stalker without giving her any chance to prove that she is innocent.
Things don’t get any easier when a person tries to get their firearms returned after it is deemed that they are no longer a threat. Once a temporary extreme risk protection order has been issued, it is both incredibly difficult and incredibly expensive to go about having the order reversed. Even after the order has been reversed, getting back any firearms that were confiscated is still a lengthy and costly process.
Unsurprisingly, the red flag law has faced harsh resistance from gun rights groups such as the NRA and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. Upon the bill’s passing, Tom King – an NRA board member and the executive director of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association – called the bill “a massive assault” on Second Amendment rights and said, “I don’t want mentally challenged individuals getting a firearm, but this red flag law lacks any sense of due process.”
Despite the opposition, though, the bill has now been signed into law and will go into effect 180 days from the date of its signing. In a perfect world, the red flag law will prevent dangerous individuals in New York from obtaining firearms and give family members, school officials, and law enforcement more power to stop mass shootings from taking place.
In our far from perfect reality, the bill is almost certainly going to lead to far more Second Amendment rights violations than anything else, stripping innocent gun owners of their rights without due process and forcing them to go through an expensive and time-consuming procedure to get those rights back.
To some, this may seem like a worthwhile tradeoff. To others, it’s nothing more than another power grab by the state of New York that will only make it that much more difficult on gun owners living in a state that is already very oppressive when it comes to gun rights.