Gov. Kathy Hochul came to Suffolk County Friday praising the county for using the state's "red flag" law more than any other county in taking guns away from people who are a danger to themselves or others, touting the law's effectiveness as part of "comprehensive" gun safety measures.
"Why are we here in Suffolk County? Because you’re doing it the best," Hochul said at the Anthony J. Tatti Youth Center in North Babylon, which attracted about 75 people, including state and local law enforcement officials, state and local legislators and community activists. Hochul is running for election as governor in November.
Hochul said Suffolk has continued to take the lead among counties in the state in the number of "extreme protective orders," it has sought since the law, better known as the "red flag" law, went into effect in 2019. She said the county had increased the number of orders by about 75% over last year, for 114 so far this year. "You’ve taken this seriously."
Hochul added: "We have such good news about the effectiveness of what our new enhanced red flag laws have done. Since we did this, the orders of protection filed by state police alone have increased 94%," Hochul said, citing 184 orders of protection state police have filed since she signed an executive order in May, requiring them to expand their use of such orders when they feel someone poses a threat to themselves or society. "That’s double from the amount of last year alone."
Rep. Lee Zeldin, (R-Shirley) the Republican running for governor against Hochul, has said he opposed the red flag law, fearing it could be a "very slippery slope" to target law-abiding gun owners.
Hochul announced that on Aug. 24, the state's Division of Criminal Justice Services was partnering with Everytown for Gun Safety to provide training for law enforcement in protection orders, such as how to identify extreme risk behavior and how to file the orders. "Not only do I want a training module for law enforcement...but for our schools," she said to loud applause.
Monisha Henley, Everytown's senior director of state affairs, called red flag laws the "bedrock of gun safety policy that keep guns out of the hands of individuals in crisis."
New York State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen was among law enforcement officials--Suffolk Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison--who praised the law for giving them another tool to help prevent gun violence.
"It's not possible for me to tell you a specific case of something that didn't happen because we did this," Bruen said of filing red flag orders. "I know in my heart of hearts we have stopped specific tragedies from happening because we took action...because somebody was saying they were going to kill themselves or other people and they went out and got those guns."
Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone said, "We want to make sure anyone who is a danger to themselves or others is not going to have a gun in their hands."
Hochul said the red flag law was part of comprehensive gun safety measures. In response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision overturning New York's century-old concealed handgun carry permit law, Hochul said on Aug. 31, she would be announcing regulations on establishing which "sensitive places" would be off limits to guns. "We have to get this right and establish our policy on restricting weapons [in] sensitive places and defining where those sensitive places are...They will be common sense places. We're using standards that will be legally sustainable."