New York has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, but Anthony Scarpino thinks they should be stronger.
The Westchester County district attorney is urging state lawmakers to pass legislation that would make it easier to take guns away from people who show signs of being dangerous to themselves or others. A bill currently under consideration in Albany — the Extreme Risk Protection Order — would empower family members and law enforcement to ask for court orders to restrict gun access in threatening situations.
“Enacting ERPO legislation may save more lives by stopping potential offenders in crisis from committing acts of violence — acts that may be wholly preventable by allowing law enforcement to take weapons out of their hands before a tragedy occurs,” Scarpino said in a statement on Monday. “The time to pass this bill is now. I urge Governor Cuomo, along with state lawmakers, to work together and enact this bill as part of the state budget.”
Scarpino’s advocacy comes ahead of Sunday’s state budget deadline and amid the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and the national “March For Our Lives” movement. The mass killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February has led many states to take a closer look at “red-flag” laws that would allow family members and law enforcement to seek temporary court-ordered gun restrictions for people who reveal signs of dangerous behavior.
After the Parkland shooting, Florida became the sixth state to pass a red-flag law, and similar bills have been introduced in other states, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control advocacy group. Bills are pending in 22 states and the District of Columbia, and bipartisan initiatives are being discussed in Congress.
The ERPO legislation would build on the SAFE Act, a 2013 gun-control measure passed in New York after the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Scarpino said there is often no legal means for removing guns that are already in the possession of people who appear to be at risk of violence.
Under ERPO, district attorneys, family and household members or police officers would be able to petition a court to issue a civil order of protection prohibiting the possession or purchase of a gun by people who are found to be dangerous to themselves or others.
To grant temporary extreme risk protection orders, a court would have to find probable cause to believe that people are likely to cause serious harm to themselves or others. If granted, that person would be required to turn over any guns before the case would be heard at a court hearing.
“We stand with the New York ERPO Coalition, which includes New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and the district attorneys of Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens counties, among others, in supporting this important and potentially life-saving legislation,” Scarpino said in his statement.
The National Rifle Association has fought red-flag legislation in at least 17 states as “anti-gun” and helped defeat a red-flag law in Utah this month. More recently, the NRA urged its members to lobby against Maryland legislation because it “lacks basic due-process protections and is ripe for abuse.”
But the NRA has started talking about the types of red-flag provisions the group would support, rather than the types it opposes.
“Our position has always been dangerous people should not have access to firearms,” said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker.
An Extreme Risk Protection Order bill was passed by the New York state Assembly on March 6 and is now before the state Senate.
Local Assembly members who voted for the bill include Amy Paulin,D-Scarsdale; J. Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon; Shelley Mayer, D-Yonkers; Steven Otis, D-Rye; Thomas Abinanti, D-Greenburgh; David Buchwald, D-White Plains; Sandy Galef, D-Ossining; Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City; Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern; and James Skoufis, D-Woodbury.
Kevin Byrne, R-Mahopac, and Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark, voted against it.