A Rensselaer County, New York man is the first in the state to have his firearms temporarily taken from him, and the case is already revealing some of the major flaws in the New York law, which went into effect in late August.
Robert King, a 51-year old man, was arrested and charged with felony weapons possession charges after shooting a parked car in New Lebanon, New York. Interestingly, the felony charge King is facing is for simply possessing the pistol without a license. He’s only facing two misdemeanors for reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. It seems odd to me that possessing a pistol is a felony, while using that pistol recklessly is a misdemeanor, but it’s a perfect demonstration of how New York’s gun laws are more concerned about otherwise legal gun ownership (in the vast majority of states, no license is needed to own a gun) than in the criminal use of a firearm.
After King was arrested, he made a comment about how it would be easier to kill himself than try to understand New York’s gun laws. That was enough for a New York State trooper to file a request to seize his firearms, and for a judge to grant the order.
After King was arraigned at New Lebanon Town Justice Court, his spouse says he made a comment in the parking lot about how it would be easier to kill himself than deal with New York State laws. She says the comment was taken out of context, and he wasn’t remotely serious about it.
Troopers took the comment seriously, later filing the Red Flag documents against him. It’s the first Red Flag case in Rensselaer County since the law took effect late last month.
King was back in court on Friday, where he agreed to give up his guns for a year, based on the judge’s decision that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that King posed a danger to himself and others.
I think the comment that King made was pretty clearly born out of frustration and said in the heat of the moment, and I suspect that the trooper who filed the red flag order and the judge who granted it aren’t all that concerned with the possibility of King committing suicide. If they really believed his posed a risk to himself or others, why not take him for a mental health evaluation? The trooper who filed the red flag request because of the perceived suicide risk went to a judge to seize King’s guns, not a doctor to evaluate King’s mental health. .
So here we have a man that the State had determined is a risk to himself or others, but the only response from the State is “hey, we’re gonna take your guns, but you can maybe have them back in a year”. That’s all, nothing more. It doesn’t seem like the State is really concerned with this man’s mental health to me. In fact, it seems much more interested in his guns than his state of mind.
In the meantime, King still has the felony firearm possession charge hanging over him, so it’s entirely possible that by the time the one-year prohibition is up, he could be legally prohibited from owning a firearm for the rest of his life, simply for possessing a firearm without a license. In fact, of all the things that King allegedly did, it’s the actual act of shooting into a parked pickup truck that comes with the least severe consequences. This case doesn’t just demonstrate the flaws in the state’s new “red flag” law, it reveals the backwards thinking among too many New York politicians that treat gun ownership as a more serious crime than misusing a firearm.