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NYS Governor Cuomo, Joined by speaker Pelosi, Signs Red Flag Gun Violence Protection Bill

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, signed the Red Flag Bill, which prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm. This legislation builds on New York’s strongest in the nation gun laws and makes New York the first in the United States to empower its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention. (Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a ceremony on Monday, Feb. 25, signed the Red Flag Bill which prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm. This legislation, also known as the extreme risk protection order bill, builds on New York’s strongest in the nation gun laws and makes New York the first in the United States to empower its teachers and school administrators to prevent school shootings by pursuing court intervention. More information is available here.

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV), a statewide advocacy organization, applauded Governor Cuomo for signing the legislation into law, which establishes a court process for removing firearms from individuals who pose a serious threat to themselves or others. The bill passed both houses of the legislature with bipartisan support on January 29.

Rebecca Fischer, NYAGV Executive Director, who stood with Governor Cuomo at the signing ceremony in New York City, stated, “Today, New York State has again made it a priority to protect our communities by enacting this life-saving gun violence prevention law.  Our children should be able to learn without the fear of gun violence in their classrooms.  Governor Cuomo and the legislature recognize that to keep New Yorkers safe, family, school officials, and law enforcement need a tool to remove guns from people in crisis. New York’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law will help prevent gun violence and protect our communities, schools, and homes.”

Additional measures passed by the State Legislature in January that await the Governor’s signature include: extending the background check period, a ban on arming educators, a ban on bump stocks, a statewide gun buyback program, and authorization to check out-of-state mental health records of gun permit applicants.

About Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO/“Red Flag” Law) —  S2451 (Kavanagh) / A2689 (Simon):  

In many cases of gun violence — including mass shootings, interpersonal violence, and suicide — the shooter’s family members or school officials see warning signs before the fatal act of gun violence occurs. However, they often feel powerless, and are unable to intervene — even with law enforcement support — before tragedy occurs. ERPO addresses this gap and creates a legal framework that respects due process and each individual’s rights while preventing gun violence.

If, upon a petition from a family member, school official, or law enforcement official, a court finds the individual is likely to harm him- or herself or others, the judge may issue an initial ERPO, and the individual will be required to surrender any guns to the proper authorities and will be prohibited from purchasing guns. After a second hearing, the judge may extend the order for up to a year — at which point it will expire, unless a petition is filed to renew the order.

Those subject to ERPOs will have an opportunity during the year-long ERPO period to petition the court and present evidence as to why the order should be lifted. If the order expires and is not renewed or if the order is lifted, guns surrendered will be returned to the individual and all records of the proceedings will be sealed.

During 2018 and 2019, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence educated and organized communities across New York State and led a coalition of legislators, advocates, law enforcement, students, educators, faith leaders, and healthcare professionals to urge passage of New York’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law. (www.nyagv.org)

Attending the signing ceremony were Mark Barden who lost his 7 year old son Daniel at Sandy Hook, and Linda Beigel Schulman and her husband Michael Schulman, who also lost a child to gun violence.

Speaker Pelosi acknowledged the importance of grass roots support to enact sensible gun control measures and praised New York State as a model for engagement of local activists and courage of legislators, noting that two important bills will be coming up in the House this week.

Gun control advocacy groups including Everytown for Gun Safety  are urging people to contact their Representative to urge support for HR 8, the Background Checks bill.

Here are highlights from the transcript of the remarks:

Governor Cuomo: Thank you. Thank you all. Let’s give a big round of applause for John Jay for hosting us today. To Linda Beigel Schulman and her husband Michael Schulman, God bless you for taking a terrible tragedy and taking that energy and taking that pain and turning it into something positive. Scott’s spirit does live today. I believe that. And congratulations to Linda Beigel Schulman. Let’s give her a big round of applause.

We also have with us today, Mark Barden who lost his son Daniel—seven years old—at Sandy Hook. I don’t know that I would have the strength that Mark had to carry on and I know I wouldn’t have had the strength to do all the work he has done. He has been a national spokesperson on this issue. And these made a tremendous difference. Let’s give him a round of applause.

To all the survivors and their families, to the advocates, to the moms who demand action, you’re getting through. I’d like to recognize my sister Maria Cuomo. She calls herself Maria Cuomo Cole…who produces documentaries, did a documentary on Newtown telling the story of Sandy Hook and it was a great vehicle to get the facts.

To all my colleagues in government who are here today, especially to Senator Kavanagh and Assemblymember Simon who carried the bill…[who]  were masterful in making government work. And to have Speaker Pelosi with us today—how great is that?

Speaker Pelosi, you carry all our hopes and dreams. You have given us strength and hope in the middle of the darkness. Speaker Pelosi is a champion for democracy, not just Democrats, she is the champion for democracy. And she is standing up to an Administration that constantly flaunts the Constitution, that has deceived the American people, that tramples their rights, that seeks to divide this nation every day on every issue, and Speaker Pelosi, God bless you for the job you do. Now New York is proud of what we’ve done on the issue of gun violence. After Sandy Hook happened, which was next door in Connecticut, 26 people killed, young children killed in a school. New York stood up and said no more. The nation said, “oh no Sandy Hook was an exception. That was just a once in a lifetime, that will never happen again.” And New York said that’s not true; it’s not an exception and something has to be done, and we know it’s a hard issue, and we know it’s a difficult issue, and we know it’s an emotional issue, but something has to be done because literally we are losing human life.

And when they said in the nation, “well no, it’ll never happen again,” we said “yes, and we’re going to do something.” And that was our quest and that was our conviction as New Yorkers, and we passed the SAFE Act. And we were right, Sandy Hook was not the last, it was not an exception. In many ways, it was only the beginning of a terrible scourge that went across this nation and it’s only gotten worse. One after the other, one more violent than the other, one more nonsensical than the other. And we said no more. Let’s use common sense and we passed the SAFE Act, and the SAFE Act made sense. Yes, people have a right to a gun if they are legitimate hunters, legitimate sportsmen, but not a person who is mentally ill, not a person who has a criminal background. Why would you ever put a gun in their hands? 

The SAFE Act banned assault weapons, banned high capacity magazines, it extended the background check to private sales. Why? Because otherwise the system is a joke, and right now the fight that the Speaker is going to have in Washington this week is exactly on this point. if you don’t have a background check on private sales, you have nothing. All it means is if you can pass a background check, you walk into a store and you buy the gun. If you can’t pass a background check, you buy the gun privately. It’s that walking to the store, you walk down the block and you go to a gun show or you buy it from a private individual and you pay a little bit more because they know that you can’t pass the background check, but you can still buy a gun. It is a total loophole that swallows the law. The reality is there is no background check in this nation if you want to buy a gun because there are so many guns. And you can buy a gun privately. It is a joke. And the SAFE Act said not in New York. We’re going to extend the background check to the private sales also. So, anyone who has a gun needs to go through a background check.

And today my friends New York is proud to pass a first in the nation the Red Flag Bill that empowers school teachers to do something when they believe something bad is going to happen. And we empower school teachers not by giving them guns, which is the president’s idea. I mean, how ludicrous a concept? Arm the teacher, so when the bad person comes into the classroom there can be a shootout in the classroom. I mean it is really ludicrous and nonsensical. No. Arm and empower the teacher with the law.

So when the teacher sees there is a problem or a family member sees there is a problem, and believes that a person could be a danger to themselves or others they can go to a judge. And say, ‘judge, please do an evaluation.’ It is common sense. If you believe that was going to happen, why would you sit back and do nothing? You protect the individual’s rights because you go to a judge. And there is a court-ordered evaluation. Over half of the school shootings, the teachers now said there were signs. There were signs in the person’s behavior and the destructiveness. Students who were suicidal. Over half the time there was signs. And if that teacher or that administrator had recourse and could have gone to a judge and said: ‘please do an evaluation. I think this young person needs help. Please help them.’ How many lives could have been saved? And that’s why this bill is in the spirit of Scott and the testament to the work of Linda Beigel Schulman and Michael Schulman. God bless you.

And while New Yorkers are proud of what we have done, we are also a very realistic people. And we know we cannot solve this gun problem within the borders of this state because guns come over boarders and the lines on the map are meaningless. This has to be done nationally. It has to be done federally. This is a uniquely United States problem. We lose more people to gun deaths than most developed nations. The first year of President Trump’s administration, we lost 40,000 people to gun deaths. The highest number in 50 years since the federal CDC was taking numbers. Hopefully the Speaker’s good work this week is going to start us on the road to end this carnage. Madam Speaker, what New York offers you is proof to the myths that you will hear in Washington this week and that’s what it really is. You have the opposition is about fear and lack of facts and lack of information. And when they say to you Madam Speaker, “this is a slippery slope, once the government starts to regulate guns, that’s a slippery slope and then they’re going to take all of our guns. This is just the camel’s nose under the tent.”

Six years ago, we passed the SAFE Act. Six years ago. We have six years of experience. Hunters still hunt. Sportsman still have their guns. But criminals don’t and the mentally ill don’t and the slippery slope never happened and government never came to take anyone’s guns and it worked.

And after six years, Madam Speaker, today there are 130,000 thousand people on a mental health database who could’ve bought a gun the day before the SAFE Act but now can’t buy a gun because they are not mentally stable enough to have a gun. One hundred and thirty thousand names. And, Madam Speaker, when they talk and debate about, “well these private sales are not really the problem,” after the SAFE Act private sales have to go through the NICS background check. Thirty-three thousand people have bought guns through private sales. Of those 33,000, 1,000 sales have been stopped because the person did not pass the background check. That’s one out of every 33 gun sales. That is a bigger deal and that’s why it works, Madam Speaker, and the proof is on your side.

The SAFE Act saved lives and didn’t infringe on anybody’s rights. The Red Flag bill, I have no doubt, will save lives and doesn’t infringe on anybody’s rights. It is common sense. It is logical. It is factual. We just have to get past the politics and get past the fear because Americans are better than this. We are smarter than this. We are more proactive than this. And we’re losing too many lives to ignorance and politics in this nation and it has to win and that is the battle that our Speaker starts this week.

I applaud my colleagues in state government. I applaud the advocates who worked so hard. I applaud the parents with the deepest of respect for carrying and turning your loss into a benefit for others. We wish our speaker Godspeed as she works to end this ugly chapter in Washington. Ladies and Gentleman, let’s give a New York welcome.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Good morning everyone. Thank you for your kind welcome, Governor Cuomo, thank you for your invitation to be here today, for your kind words of introduction. Let us salute Governor Andrew Cuomo for his tremendous leadership on this and so many other issues. Thank you, Governor Cuomo.

I join Governor Cuomo in saluting the parents who are with us to Mark, Linda thank you both for channeling your grief into action to save other lives. I’ve seen Mark around the country over the years, he has been a relentless champion. And Linda to hear you say today is a day that you could celebrate, that makes a difference that warms our hearts. It’s an eloquent message unsurpassed. Thank you Linda for your family’s leadership in this

I join the Governor not only in saluting them but saluting Senator Kavanagh, Assemblywoman Simon and all of the state legislators who are here, thank you for your courage in passing the legislation. I say to my colleagues in the Congress frequently, the survival of our children is much more important than your political survival. The Governor indicated the courage that it takes to pass this legislation. So once again let us salute Senator Kavanagh, Assemblywoman Simon and all of the state legislators who played such an important role in sending this legislation to the Senate.

And Governor thank you for being a leader and inspiration and relentless persistent advocate for this legislation. I was pleased and honored to join you, when you signed the landlord legislation last May, that prevented domestic abusers from obtaining firearms. Moms Demand Action was an important part of it, but all of the outside mobilization. Internally I’m sure the legislators in this state as well as our colleagues in the Congress recognize that our inside maneuvering is essential and we’re responsible to do the best possible job to get the best, strongest possible result. But without the outside mobilization this cannot, we cannot be effective. So let us thank all of the outside groups, for what they did to make this a success.

The Governor mentioned some of the statistics involved, was it George Bernard Shaw said the sign of a truly intelligent person is that they are acknowledge statistics and statistics tell the story, but the personal stories, personal stories really change the minds. And the stories of the parents and the families and school children who were there, the March for our Lives, all of that is changing. This gun violence issue is a national health epidemic in our country.

Mr. President if you want to talk about emergencies, this is an emergency.

I thank you Governor and I thank New York State for being such a leader on this issue. My colleagues I don’t know if Nydia Velazquez is here with us, a lot of traffic getting over here, but she and all of the New York members have been so great on this issue. Mostly all.

In Congress, to follow your lead and keeping guns out of the hands at risk for themselves and others whose extreme risk – protection orders – and empower the full force of communities to act, otherwise known as Red Flag. Now let me say, when we talk about Red Flag and people with certain challenges, 99 percent with any diagnosis are safe, law-abiding people in our country. As we do this, we just want to identify – prioritize to save others, then save lives after the person themselves. And they also say that when we vote on the bill this week we will pass the bill on the floor of the House.

Again, because of what you have done here to build the momentum, the outside, to make the case and now that all 90 percent of the public supports gun violence prevention by way of background checks and that includes many gun owners and many members of the NRA. They’re gun owners, they’ve taken background checks, and they think other people should too. That’s how you get to 90 percent by not only advocating, by explaining this is what the bill does so that they can’t characterize, as the Governor says they do, some of the leadership of the gun lobbyists do. So we go forward as a full supporter of the American people and we forget, pass bill and what it will do is encouragement and enactment of the extreme risk, protection order and what it will do here is prevent abusers, domestic violence abuse and stalkers from obtaining a gun. Provide funds to the CDC for gun violence prevention research, very, very important. They can do it but we have to provide the funds and insist that this administration do it. And so we have the capacity to save lives.

When we had the election, a lot of it was about health. The health of the American people and this is a health issue. The mobilization of young people and families of people effected by gun violence and other groups again are essential, in electing people who have the courage to make the challenging vote to save lives.

So I thank all of the people of New York. I thank the Governor for his commitment, his dedication, and his relentlessness on this issue. I want the families to know that this will not end here. We have more to do but it’s not about taking guns away from people, it’s just making sure that the law is effective in making, do a background check in a timely way and extend the time.

We have two bills this week one is about background checks and extending the time period. Now if you don’t get a no in 72 hours, it’s a yes so were extend the time on that. But again, all of this, by listening, hearing what really will save lives. Because sadly, the tragic events of mass shootings demand a great deal of attention, rightfully so. But every single day, and every single night in our country, people are killed by guns, senselessly, unnecessarily, and we want to make sure that we reduce violence in our country.

So again, I thank all of you. I’m very proud of the whole Congress of the United States, but our members who will have the courage to vote correctly when we come together this week. Tonight we’re taking the bill to the rules committee, tomorrow the rule will be on the floor in order to vote on the rule. On Wednesday we’ll pass the bill, the gun violence prevention by background check. Thursday we will have the bill to extend the time. But starting the week here in New York, making this gun violence prevention week, not officially, but legislatively, it just sends a very, very, very strong message. So thank you for that.

And by the way, just incidentally, okay, you can clap for that. While we’re together here I just want to say what else we’re doing this week. I don’t want to take away from the gun violence prevention, but it’s about the constitution, and the Governor spoke about that. Tonight we’ll also go to rules committee to put forth a resolution to overturn the president’s declaration

Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, and Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, from Texas, a border state, is taking the lead on this. And that will go to rules committee tonight, and the floor of the House tomorrow to be voted on. And this is not about politics, it’s not about partisanship, it’s about patriotism. It’s about the constitution of the United States of America. It’s about our beautiful constitution, beginning with the preamble, “We the People of the United States,” and as soon as that preamble ends, the very next words are Article One, the legislative branch, co-equal to every other branch, the executive branch, the judicial branch, spelling out in the text the powers of the Congress of the United States, the power of the purse being one of them. So this is not, this is not about partisanship. This is about saying we must honor our oath of office. To let the executive branch get away with this assault on the constitution, we would be delinquent in our duties to the oath of office we have taken.

And defile the core, the heart of the constitution, which is the separation of powers, co-mingled branches of government as a check and balance on each other. So this is going to be quite a week, when we talk about what our constitution really says. What it says about the separation of power, what it says about the rights of people to have gun ownership, but the rights also of us to have some say in the protection of the American people by advancing gun violence prevention. So all of you are super patriots who are doing this because you are upholding the constitution of the United States. As you protect and defend that constitution, you protect and defend the American people.