Hochul's touting of red flag law a political stunt

Hochul's touting of red flag law a political stunt
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has made her anti-gun sensibilities very clear since taking office. She’s pushed gun control incessantly since she stepped into the role vacated by the previous anti-gun governor. That includes red flag laws.


As Cam noted on Monday, Hochul is trying to celebrate an increase in the number of red-flag order filings. He correctly notes that this increase comes after she issued an executive order basically demanding state law enforcement start filing red flag orders. You can’t really tout this as some huge win for the law itself when you’re just telling people who answer to you to find reasons to use it.

So why tout this?

Easy. Hochul is in trouble.

Kathy Hochul’s reelection strategy is not working as planned.

After spending the summer pounding Republican opponent Lee Zeldin as an anti-abortion, Donald Trump acolyte, Hochul is finding out what other Democrats across the nation are also learning: Crime and the economy are crowding out abortion rights and the former president’s troubles as top of mind issues for voters.

The New York governor is responding with a last-minute shift in approach just weeks ahead of the election by promoting her efforts to create jobs and fight crime. “You deserve to feel safe,” Hochul says in a new TV ad released Saturday as part of a $1 million-plus buy in New York City. “And as your governor, I won’t stop working until you do.”

One of those supposed anti-crime measures is the red flag law.

There’s just a problem with that. Red flag laws aren’t really anti-crime measures. Not in the broader sense, anyway.

Red flag laws came about because of concerns over mass shootings. The idea was that if someone shows concerning behavior, an order could be issued that would allow the authorities to swoop in and take people’s guns quickly. Then, after all that, they could appear before the court and a final ruling would be issued as to whether the concerns were valid or not.


Yet mass shootings, despite the headlines, are relatively rare. They make news, but that alone is evidence of their rarity. If a Uvalde happened every day, it just wouldn’t make headlines. Not as a single incident, anyway.

Even if you could eliminate mass shootings forever with no collateral damage, it still wouldn’t make even a dent in violent crime.

If red flag laws do much of anything, it’s in addressing potential suicides with a firearm. Even that has issues, though.

Then there’s the fact that red flag orders could potentially be issued for snide comments, dark humor, and other such trivialities. In fact, they actually have.

Some lawyers believe the county has overreached. Peter H. Tilem, whose firm has represented clients in red flag cases, said some are based merely on a statement written or texted to a friend.

“What is it like for a college student who has never committed a crime to have the police break down his door and seize his gun?” Mr. Tilem asked. “What’s it like to have to get examined by psychiatrists and psychologists to essentially prove that he’s not a danger to himself or others?”

Considering the social media reaction to off-color jokes–I’ve been banned for saying I’d shank someone for my wife’s pumpkin pie because someone thought it was a violent threat than a commentary on my wife’s baking–it’s not difficult to imagine that a lot of people are having their guns seized over things that don’t actually translate to threats.

And understand, Hochul likely knows and understands this.


Yet because she simply can’t hold up her own record on crime, she has to try and reframe things, hence bringing up red flag laws and how often they’re used.

But violent criminals generally aren’t allowed to have guns in the first place. They’re not lawful gun owners. What’s more, they’re generally not being hit with red-flag orders, either.

Hochul is reaching and praying that the voters of New York are oblivious to what’s transpiring right before them. She’s scared she’s about to lose her job and so she’s holding up these orders to “prove” she’s doing something.

Yet as Cam noted in his piece on Monday, she makes no mention of how many of the filings resulted in much of anything. That alone should raise some questions in and of itself.

This is a stunt. It’s a desperate gamble to make voters think she’s accomplishing something on an issue they find important. The thing is, if red flag orders are the best she’s got, she’s probably screwed

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