Hochul touts "red flag" gun seizures as polls show crime top concern for New Yorkers

The number of “red flag” gun seizures in New York has grown “exponentially” over the past couple of months, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul, who held a press conference with Attorney General Letitia James on Monday to tout the supposed success of the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law.

Hochul, who’s running for a full term as governor after taking over following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation last November, is facing criticism from Republican challenger Lee Zeldin over the state’s crime rate; criticism that appears to be landing, with some recent polls showing a pretty close race for governor. In fact, Hochul faced several questions from reporters on Monday about the timing of her “red flag” event, though the Democrat insisted that today’s presser had nothing to do with the upcoming elections.

Back in May Hochul issued an executive order mandating that the State Police apply for an ERPO every time they believe there is “probable cause that someone posed a danger to themselves or others”, and in July, a law expanding the use of “red flag” petitions took effect, adding more individuals like doctors and teachers to the list of those who can file orders, as well as directing all law enforcement agencies across the state to file ERPO requests whenever possible.

Since those directives took effect, according to Hochul, “red flag” petitions have increased by more than 100%, with more than 2,000 petitions filed since June. The governor says since June, the state is averaging about 400 “red flag” seizures per month, compared to about 45 per month before she issued her executive order.

Hochul and New York Attorney Letitia James also announced $4.6-million in funding for the AG’s office to send attorneys to court alongside NY State Police officers who’ve requested an ERPO, noting that some petitions were being thrown out because the state didn’t have any attorney present in court to present its (one-sided) case. What Hochul didn’t say is legal representation for the subject of a “red flag” petition is still not guaranteed. Not only are petitioners or their attorneys not a part of an ex parte emergency hearing, those subject to a “red flag” order aren’t entitled to a public defender if they can’t afford their own attorney; a feature of the ERPO law that tilts the scales of justice in favor of the state.

The governor also avoided discussing how many temporary or final orders have not been approved despite all of the mechanisms in the law designed to make it fairly easy to issue an ERPO. It would be nice to see that data, which would provide some indication of whehter judges are simply rubber-stamping their approval of “red flag” petitions, but Hochul only wanted to tout the number of orders filed and pledge that there’ll be a lot more to come.

New York’s “red flag” law suffers from the same deficiencies as every other one; a lack of due process protections, a lack of guaranteed legal representation for those subject to a petition, and a lack of mental health treatment for those determined to be a danger to themselves or others, just to name a few. But Hochul loves the state’s “red flag” law, and since she has some shiny new statistics to wave in front of voters to show that she’s taking concern about crime seriously, today’s event was all about the law’s supposed success.

Well, mostly about the supposed successes. During the brief Q & A that followed Hochul’s prepared remarks, the governor was asked about the state’s new concealed carry restrictions and, more specifically, the suspension of the state’s blanket ban on concealed carry in houses of worship following a federal judge’s decision to grant a temporary restraining order against enforcement of that aspect of the Concealed Carry Improvement Act. Hochul’s response is worth a separate post all its own, and we’ll have more on the governor’s contempt for the right to carry coming up this afternoon.