Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone announced a five-point plan for stricter gun laws in the county.  Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

One day after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated New York's century-old gun law setting limits on who can carry a concealed weapon, Suffolk County announced a five-point plan to prevent individuals who have shown signs of being a threat to themselves or the public from obtaining a firearm.

The effort to bolster Suffolk's Red Flag law comes as state and local lawmakers scramble to respond to Thursday's 6-3 Supreme Court decision, which found New York’s “proper-cause requirement” mandating that concealed carry permit applicants prove they face “a special or unique danger to their life" was unconstitutional.

During a news conference in Hauppauge, Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said while the department has yet to see a major push from residents to obtain concealed carry permits, "the truth of the matter is it's coming. Are we prepared? Of course, we are. But we have to do a lot more reviewing to see what the best practices are and to make sure we are protecting the residents of Suffolk County."

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that she would convene a special session of the State Legislature beginning June 30 where lawmakers could vote to require background checks and mandatory training before a concealed carry permit is obtained. The bills could also potentially prohibit individuals from carrying a firearm in "sensitive areas" such as public transit, parks and schools.

Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, a spokesman for the Nassau County Police Department, said there has been a "significant increase" in applications for concealed carry permits since the court's decision. But he said the application review process is several months long and no permits would be immediately issued.

"We’re still in discussions — the county executive, the county attorney’s office and the police department's legal [team],” Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said at an unrelated news conference Friday.

Suffolk administration officials said concealed carry permits will not be issued immediately and the department will take time to review its processes while incorporating any legislative changes that could be passed in the coming weeks.

In the interim, county officials plan to strengthen their Red Flag warning laws, which provide a way for relatives, teachers and others to sound an alarm to keep firearms away from those who may be a threat to themselves or others.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone plans to sign an executive order codifying the county's existing policy requiring the Police Department to file for an Extreme Risk Protection Order whenever an officer believes an individual is a threat to themselves or others. The county would also expand its education of Red Flag laws while working with state lawmakers to expand the law to include threats against organizations as opposed to just individuals.

Suffolk leads the state in Red Flag warnings, with the police department seizing roughly 160 guns under the law since 2019, Bellone said.

"In light of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling broadly permitting individuals to carry concealed weapons in public, it is even more critical that we do everything we can to make sure that people who are potentially a danger to themselves or to others are not in possession of these guns," Bellone said as he stood in front of dozens of firearms seized through ERPOs. " … We're not going to stand around and wait for a mass shooting incident to happen here."

The county, Bellone said, will also provide additional resources to the department's Criminal Intelligence Division to monitor social media chatter about gun violence, particularly against school buildings, while doubling the number of active shooter training exercises.

Gun control advocate Linda Beigel Schulman said if Red Flag laws had been in effect in 2018 in Parkland, Florida, her son Scott, who was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School, could still be alive today. Beigel Schulman said multiple teachers, students and administrators expressed concern about alleged gunman Nikolas Cruz but told her that there was no obvious way to take action.

"They knew all about him, but there was nothing they could do," said Beigel Schulman, of Dix Hills.

Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica, and 11 others were gunned down in the Aurora, Colorado, theater massacre in 2012, said Congress must pass a federal Red Flag law nationwide. To date, 19 states and the District of Columbia have Red Flag laws in place.

"Not only are these laws important, they've definitely have been proven to save lives," Phillips said during the Hauppauge news conference.

With Keldy Ortiz

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