Actually, the announcement from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul was supposed to happen yesterday, but now it’ll be sometime today that the governor unveils a slate of gun control proposals. According to Hochul’s office the legislative package was already in the works before the shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo left ten people dead this past weekend, in part because of the pending Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, but Hochul will now try to tie-in the shooting to her plans to further criminalize the right to keep and bear arms in the state.
In addition to Hochul’s proposals, New York lawmakers are also drawing up plans of their own.
“You just want to close every potential loophole,” said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of Westchester.
Ms. Paulin is the sponsor of a number of bills she believes would help make New York safer. One would require local law enforcement agencies to promptly contribute information on recovered weapons to a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives database, which would allow better tracing. Another would allow New York to do its own background checks, instead of outsourcing the process to the F.B.I.
Other measures would institute new requirements for gun dealers, including better record keeping and increased staff training.
But advocates have questioned whether New York’s existing laws could be better implemented.
Under New York’s so-called red flag law, for example, relatives, school officials and law enforcement can ask a court to remove guns from the home of a person at high risk of harming themselves or others and prevent them from buying new ones — a prohibition that can last as long as a year. But the law was not invoked against the suspect in the Buffalo attack, even after his threat to murder and commit suicide alarmed a school official enough to alert police.
“There was a breakdown here, but it wasn’t a breakdown of the law — it was a breakdown in implementation,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates against gun violence. He and others are pushing for more robust training for law enforcement and school administrators to know when to use the extreme risk law.
That seems to be an emerging theme among Democrats and gun control activists; it’s not that New York’s already draconian gun control laws failedto prevent this shooting, exactly. It’s just the laws didn’t work the way they should.
“From all indications, due to the allegations, it appears that it didn’t work,” Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr. said of the state’s “red flag” law, which was designed to take away weapons from people with a mental illness “which is likely to result in serious harm to himself or others.”
Why did that happen? How did an increasingly radicalized Southern Tier man slip through the cracks of a system that was changed to prevent such a massacre in the wake of shootings in Connecticut and Florida?
Experts say the answer is complicated and involves overlapping institutions in the worlds of law enforcement, mental health, education, politics and the courts – and the fact that they don’t always talk to each other particularly well.
I have no idea why the state’s “red flag” law wasn’t used against the Buffalo shooting suspect, but there were plenty of opportunities. His family, school, and even local law enforcement could have filed a petition, but none of them chose to do so. Was that because everyone was simply unaware of the law, or was it because they felt like the situation had been investigated and resolved?
As for any “fixes” to the red flag law, I have a sneaking suspicion they’re only going to make a bad law even worse. Retired Buffalo police captain Jeffrey Rinaldo seemed to suggest to the Buffalo News that gun stores should be turning away more customers even if they pass background checks.
Rinaldo said there remains a “disconnect” between police agencies, the mental health community and gun retailers, though he said no one part of the system alone shares blame.“I don’t think it’s fair to point the finger at any one of them and say, ‘They messed this up,’ ” Rinaldo said. “I think, though, you need to figure out some sort of coordination. You’ve got to ensure the gun stores and gun shows get their hands on that kind of information and say, ‘Hey, don’t sell this guy a gun right now.’ “