This past weekend, a new gun control law, which has been named the Red Flag Bill, was put into effect in New York State. The law allows for teachers, family members or the police to file an “emergency risk protection order” against a person who they feel are a threat to others or themselves. After this temporary order is issued, a hearing occurs within three to six days to determine if the order is required. If the court rules that the person is a threat, all of their firearms may be confiscated and they will be unable to purchase guns for one year. While this new law is a step in the right direction, it does not do enough and it introduces new complications, rather than keep New Yorkers safe.
One might think that common-sense gun control bills would be something that everyone would support. After all, a child’s right to live through first grade should take precedence over the right of the average citizen to own military-grade weapons. But here we are, almost seven years after the attack we thought would change the conversation, and we still have not done enough to protect our safety during the most minute of tasks, like seeing a movie, getting groceries or just taking a drive. This past weekend’s shooting in Texas only emphasizes how desperate we are for common-sense gun control.
In one of the most progressive states in the country, politicians are being applauded for passing the Red Flag Bill, even though the bill doesn’t do enough to keep us safe. Despite the bill allowing for the order to be renewed each year, this isn’t helpful. Anyone can pretend they are no longer a threat for a year so they can get weapons again and then use them as they wish; Dylann Roof passed a background check, then legally purchased the firearm he used to murder nine congregants at a Charleston church. If someone is deemed a threat to society, the right of society to live should supercede their right to own a gun.
This bill also introduces many complications and bureaucratic tape. First, the bill requires someone to claim that a dangerous person is a threat. While this is a step up from having no course of action, in many instances this would have no impact. A shocking amount of the recent mass shooters have shown little or no warning signs, with people close to them saying that they are shocked that he could have done such a thing. Even in cases when there are clear warning signs, many people do not speak up. While this lack of voicing concern could be interpreted to be due to them not having an avenue to effectively report, this is often not the case, with many saying they didn’t have a reason to be concerned.
Now, let’s get into the ridiculous features of this bill. Once someone — who, by the way, can only be either a teacher, family member or the police — suspects that someone else may be a threat to society, they must file an order with a court (which we all know runs very efficiently in the U.S.), and a hearing would occur within three to six days. This is a dangerous amount of time. If someone is truly a threat to society or themselves and they get served a court order claiming such, they would likely take action in those three to six days. The feelings associated with being accused of something — especially something this drastic — are often anger and betrayal, which would make a person even more likely to be a threat.
On an entirely different note, this bill allows for people to claim that those they do not like are threats. While this is certainly an abuse of the law, it is also a possibility and something to be concerned about. For instance, if a family member is upset with a relative for unrelated reasons, they could petition the court to have that person’s firearms taken away, tangling them up in a court proceeding which would waste taxpayer money and could cause the person to become a threat when they were not originally.
The Red Flag Bill does do some good in that it allows for a system for citizens to speak up about dangerous things they see. However, the bill also leaves a lot of room for abuse — especially racial profiling — and does not go nearly as far as it should to protect New Yorkers. Yes, New Yorkers should be able to own firearms; however, it should be done in a safe way, with comprehensive background checks before a gun is owned or a threat is possible. Despite a constant fear of the gun violence everywhere in the U.S., our leaders continue to sit on their hands and try to do the very least while their citizens are murdered almost every day.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 3, 2019 print edition. Email Noah Friend at [email protected]