New York Gov. Cuomo pushed legislation this week that would create a system of gun confiscation for those deemed by the state to be an “extreme risk” to themselves or others.
Cuomo’s “red flag” bill differs from some of the others we’ve seen crop up in recent months because it takes it one step further in that it not only allows family members and police officers to seek a gun confiscation order but allows school personnel to do so as well.
Calling school shootings a “new and frightening phenomenon,” Cuomo said that rolling out a red flag bill is the “next step” to improving public safety.
“We want to continue to make New York safer. And continue to show this country that we can do something,” said the governor at a Manhattan press conference Tuesday.
What’s not immediately clear is how the red flag bill works within a school setting (K-12). Under New York State law, persons under the age of 16 may not legally possess a firearm. Assuming a 14- or 15-year-old student is exhibiting suicidal or homicidal behavior, petitioning a court to seize his guns doesn’t do much good because he’s already banned from possessing firearms. If he has a gun on his person he is breaking the law. In which case he should be arrested and there would be no need to raise the red flag. Cops can simply take him into custody.
In cases where the student is 16 and older, the state would have to confiscate the firearms gifted to the teen because New York residents cannot lawfully purchase a firearm until the age of 21. However, just impounding the teen’s firearms does not mean the state is fully eliminating his access to guns. What if his parents or guardians own guns? What if his siblings own guns? How does the state ensure he doesn’t get a hold of arms that don’t belong to him? Does it confiscate all the guns in the household, including the ones owned by family members?
I emailed those questions to Cuomo’s office and am awaiting a reply. We’ll see what they say.
I also asked the obvious question that underscores the problem with Extreme Risk Protection Orders. What does the bill do to treat those deemed an “extreme risk”? Confiscation is only part of the equation. The other part, the more critical element, is ensuring the troubled teen gets help!
Taking guns away does not mean the teen is no longer a threat to himself or others. We don’t treat alcoholics just by confiscating their beer. Why? Because they’ll find more beer. Or, if really desperate, they’ll drink mouthwash. We treat alcoholics by putting them on a path to recover. The question for Cuomo’s administration is what sort of recovery program exists for those slapped with the “extreme risk” label?
During the conference, Cuomo also announced a measure to extend the waiting period for gun purchases, specifically in cases where the gun dealer receives a “delayed” response (instead of a “proceed” or “denied” response) from the FBI after it processes a background check on a prospective purchaser. Under federal law, the gun dealer can proceed with the sale of a firearm after receiving a “delayed” response if the dealer does not hear back from the FBI within three days. Cuomo wants to increase that wait time to 10 days to give the FBI more time to clear the purchaser.
Lastly, Cuomo poo-pooed the idea of arming teachers.
“The president has said that the answer is we need to give teachers guns. To me that is a bizarre concept,” said Cuomo, who is running for re-election this year. “Teachers are not there to carry firearms and engage in shootouts in a school setting with hundreds of students in the venue. You don’t become a school teacher to become a security guard or a police officer. You become a teacher to become an educator.”
Funny but couldn’t the same argument be made to oppose teachers acting as psychologists or psychiatrists or mental health experts?
Teachers are not there to diagnose mental defectives in a school setting with hundreds of other students to educate. You don’t become a school teacher to become a psychologist or psychiatrist. You become a teacher to become an educator.
Not all teachers are the same. Treating them as a monolith incapable of learning the fundamentals of self-defense and the tenets of responsible gun ownership is selling them short. More to the point, it’s cheating the very students you, Gov. Cuomo, claim to represent from the one thing they want most: a safer learning environment.
No one, regardless of their profession, wants to confront an armed assailant. But sometimes one is left with no choice. In that instance, one will fight as they have trained and use the tools they have at their disposal to engage the killer. Everyone, teachers included, should be allowed to prepare as they see fit for the unthinkable.