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Hochul says red flag law usage has doubled since new reforms were passed

Gov. Kathy Hochul announces a major increase in applications for Extreme Risk Protection Orders under New York's Red Flag Law Aug. 12, 2022.
Don Pollard
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul announces a major increase in applications for Extreme Risk Protection Orders under New York's Red Flag Law Aug. 12, 2022.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday that gun safety laws passed after the Buffalo mass shooting that killed 10 people are reporting some success.

After the supermarket shooting killed 10 Black people, Hochul ordered the State Police to automatically invoke the state’s red flag laws and ask a judge for an order to temporarily seize the guns or other weapons of anyone they think might be a threat to themselves or others.

Hochul, speaking on Long Island, said in the 88 days since that directive, the issuance of the orders of protection have increased by 94%. Over the past three months, 184 orders were issued; that’s double the number for the same time period in 2021.

“We’re talking about connecting the dots before something happens,” Hochul said. “I want to be in the business of preventing crimes more so than trying to solve crimes. A red flag (law) allows us to do that.”

The alleged Buffalo shooter threatened to commit a murder-suicide at his high school in 2021, and authorities were notified, but the red flag laws were never used.

Since Hochul issued the order to State Police, the Legislature passed a law requiring that all law enforcement agencies in New York invoke the red flag laws whenever they believe someone might be a threat.

State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen said it’s harder to demonstrate when something doesn’t happen than when it does, but he believes the stepped-up red flag orders have prevented serious injuries and even deaths.

“It’s not possible for me to tell you a specific case of something that didn’t happen because we did this, but I know in my heart of hearts we have stopped specific tragedies from happening,” Bruen said. “Because we took action.”

Hochul also announced that the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services will provide training for law enforcement agencies statewide so they can learn how to better use the red flag laws.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.