New Gun Law Aims To Reduce Shootings

A “Red Flag” law, formally known as the “Extreme Risk Protection Order” law went into effect in New York State on Saturday, Aug. 24. 

The law aims to prevent those suffering from mental illnesses or those where it is evident that they may be a danger to themselves or others “from purchasing, possessing or attempting to purchase or possess a firearm, rifle or shotgun.” 

The law allows family or household members, police officers, district attorneys and school administrators to file an “Application for a Temporary Extreme Risk Protection Order” with the New York State Supreme Court.  A judge is then required to review the application within 24 hours and if probable cause is found, a “Temporary Extreme Risk Protection Order” (TERPO) will be issued to prevent the individual from purchasing or owning a firearm.

In cases where the petitioner believes that an individual subject to a TERPO may still be a danger to themselves or others, at any point within 60 days before the TERPO expires, the petitioner can initiate a request to renew the order. A hearing will then be held in the state Supreme Court to determine whether the request will be granted. 

According to The Daily Freeman, on Friday, Aug. 23, Ulster County officials spoke on the new legislation and Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa said the law “would have made a difference” in the June 1 killing in a New Paltz parking lot where Jeremy Kaartine fatally shot his father.

Kaartine had a history of domestic disputes between him and his mother, Karen Masters, who had to forfeit her pistol permit. Kaartine was issued his own pistol permit by a state Supreme Court justice regardless of an objection from the Sheriff’s office.

According to a study by the National Council for Behavioral Health, “the perpetrators of mass violence predominantly fall into several categories.” The categories include ideologically extreme individuals or terrorists, “disgruntled” employees, students or domestic partners “seeking revenge,” “disaffected loners” and those suffering from a mental illness whose symptoms may have impacted their actions.

However, the study finds that since the ‘90s, about one third of acts of mass violence have been committed by those suffering from a mental illness and those with mental illnesses are responsible for less than 4% of all violent acts in the United States.

Glenn Geher, a professor of psychology at SUNY New Paltz and Mary Lee, a New Paltz resident and alumna of SUNY New Paltz. He both helped organize the 2018 Gun Insanity rally held on the college’s campus. 

Geher said that he thinks the law is a “terrific” idea and could prevent instances of gun violence. However, he said it is only a state-level “band-aid” for a national problem.

“It’s sad we don’t have national laws to make it so we don’t have to think about a law like this,” Geher said. “The problem is a large-scale presence of guns and lax gun laws in this country—hiding behind the second amendment and funding the National Rifle Association, that’s the national problem.”

Nationally, about 12 more states have approved some form of the “Red Flag” law since the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, joining the original five states that approved the law before the shooting. 

The only states that had a “Red Flag” gun law prior to 2018 were California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington. 

According to the New York Times, some of these early versions of the law would only allow the public to make reports to the police and prosecutors, who would then decide to petition the courts. California’s version of the law is the first to allow family members to petition the courts directly. 

Lee said that the “Red Flag” gun law is a “step in the right direction.” She also believes that more can be done to prevent gun violence including “military assault rifle” bans, waiting periods for purchasing a firearm, more thorough “vetting” of those purchasing guns and more support for mental health. 

“I think we’re in a place where any step in the right direction is important and a solution would come from a combination of things, so this law seems to be a positive one,” Lee said. “I think that with anything this complicated and touchy there will be situations in which it obviously doesn’t work, but if it makes a difference in even one situation or saves even one life, I’d call that effective and it seems to have the potential to do so.”