NY Assembly passes gun violence restraining order bill

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat seen here at a rally, has seen more success with his gun confiscation bill this session than in years past. (Photo: Sabina Mollot/Town-village.com)

Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat shown here at a rally, has seen more success with his gun confiscation bill this session than in years past. (Photo: Sabina Mollot/Town-village.com)

A measure to establish “extreme risk protection orders” in the Empire State was approved by the lower chamber of the legislature this month.

The Democrat-backed proposal, A.6994, would allow a family member, police officer, or district attorney to file a petition with the court for a judge to decide if a subject poses a threat to themselves or others. This could lead to an order prohibiting firearms possession for up to one year, which could be renewed. Proponents feel the move, already law in California and Washington, would save lives.

“Family and household members are often the first to notice when someone is in crisis or exhibiting dangerous behavior,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “Preventing access to guns by individuals in crisis who are found to be a danger to themselves or others could prevent incidents of interpersonal gun violence and suicide involving a gun.”

Under the measure’s guidelines, if a protection order is granted it would prohibit the subject from purchasing guns while mandating they surrender any they already own to authorities. When the order expires the owner could get their guns back so long as they were not a prohibited possessor and then records of the proceedings would be sealed.

The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, who proposed similar legislation in 2014 and later rolled the concept into a national gun control group he founded. His proposal was modeled on California’s AB1014, which established a framework to deny firearm possession by those believed to be dangerous in the wake of the killing of six individuals near the University of California, Santa Barbara, in Isla Vista. A similar program passed by ballot referendum last fall in Washington after a $3.5 million campaign by groups funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“It is time for New York to empower families, police officers, and courts to take this practical, evidence-based step to prevent gun violence and save lives,” said Kavanagh.

The bill is supported by gun control groups with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence calling it a “proactive tool to prevent
needless tragedies.”

Gun rights and civil liberties advocates have traditionally decried ERPO bills, citing due process concerns and the fact that they do not provide any health care for those deemed most in need.

Tom King, president of the New York Rifle and Pistol Association, went on record against Kavanagh’s initial proposed measure, arguing it was duplicative of laws already in place to address those with mental health issues.

The bill is now in the hands of the state Senate where a companion measure, S.5447, is in committee.