Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday continued to drum up support for state “red-flag” legislation that would allow educators to get court orders to block students’ access to guns for youths suspected of being a danger to themselves or others.
In a final push before the end of the legislative session, Cuomo held a morning event in front of Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School before traveling by yellow school bus along with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul to a second public school, Evander Childs campus, in the Bronx.
The bill would enhance school safety by empowering teachers and school officials who often see warning signs of mental illness in students before a violent episode such as a mass shooting, supporters say.
“If a parent or a teacher knows a child might act out, has access to guns, let them have the ability to go to a judge,” Cuomo said. “This has nothing to do with politics. It is common sense. There is no reason this shouldn’t pass.”
Assemb. Jo Ann Simon (D-Brooklyn), who joined the governor, said it would be debated in the Assembly on Tuesday and she expects it to pass. Simon noted an earlier version of the bill was widely supported.
“At Columbine, at Sandy Hook, at Parkland, San Bernadino and at Santa Fe High School — the shooters exhibited observable signs of escalating focus on committing violence. Families and teachers do not have the ability to step in because too often our laws limit that to criminal acts and these people have not necessarily violated the law yet,” Simon said.
School officials currently have no legal standing to petition a judge to remove or secure guns in the home of a student. The student’s right to due process would not be violated because he or she would have a mental health evaluation before the judge could decide, Cuomo said.
If passed, school staff — including guidance counselors, social workers, school nurses and administrators — could petition a judge for an extreme-risk protection order to prevent a potentially dangerous student from purchasing, possessing or attempting to possess a firearm, rifle or shotgun.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) called the red-flag bill “another political ploy in the governor’s continued attack on 2nd Amendment rights.”
“Threats and potential dangers should always be reported to the proper authorities. Decisions on a person’s mental health should be left to mental health professionals. Assembly Republicans have called on Gov. Cuomo to form a commission on school safety and security — but the silence is deafening,” Kolb said in a statement Monday.
Cuomo, who is running for re-election, said in Monday’s interview with Newsday that he was calling on Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) to bring the bill to a vote before the legislative session ends.
“I can’t pass it with the Republican senators on Long Island,” Cuomo said. “They have been unwilling to pass it. We’re down to a week and a half. The only way we get it passed now is if we successfully strip away from the excuses.”
In a statement, Flanagan said the GOP-controlled chamber would review the legislation but expects the governor and the Assembly to consider the State Senate’s school safety package.
Nina Melzer, president of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Congress of Teachers, said the 650-member teachers union supports Cuomo’s measure. “I think we need to do more, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Melzer, who hopes to learn about how the law will be applied on the district level. “Often the ills of society are put upon teachers — where we are supposed to solve all of the problems — but I don’t think this is looking for us to solve the problem, just have a voice.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, Nassau Legis. Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview), as well as school officials, teachers’ union representatives and student activists, joined Cuomo at the event in supporting the bill.
At least six states — Rhode Island, Florida, Vermont, Delaware, Maryland and Vermont — have some form of “red-flag law,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, with dozens more states considering similar proposals.
With Emily Ngo