June 21, 2017

Assembly Approves Legislation to Reduce Access to Guns for Individuals at Risk of Harming Themselves or Others

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh announced that the Assembly has passed legislation that would allow a court to issue an "extreme risk protection order" to restrict the purchase and possession of guns by individuals who the court has determined are likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to themselves or others. The bill has been referred for consideration in the State Senate.

"Family and household members are often the first to notice when someone is in crisis or exhibiting dangerous behavior. 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," said Speaker Heastie. "Enacting a system to allow a court to issue an extreme risk protection order will help keep New Yorkers safe, while respecting due process rights."

"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 Assemblymember Kavanagh. "Connecticut and Indiana have demonstrated the effectiveness of allowing police to work through the courts to temporarily reduce access to guns when there is strong evidence that someone is at risk of violence, while California and Washington State have taken the critical step of extending their laws to enable family members of someone who may be in crisis to initiate this process. I'm proud to join legislators in dozens of states, and the many New Yorkers committed to keeping our families and our communities safe from preventable gun violence, in advancing this important measure to close a critical gap in our laws."

The bill (A.6994, Kavanagh) would enact a court process to allow a judge to issue an order to prevent individuals found likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to themselves or others from having access to guns. A district attorney, police officer, or family or household member could petition the court to grant a temporary extreme risk protection order.

If granted through the judicial process, the protection order would prohibit the individual from purchasing guns and require him or her to surrender any guns to the proper authorities. Following a hearing, a final extreme risk protection order may be granted which would prohibit the individual from purchasing or possessing a gun for a period of up to one year. During the year, the individual subject to the order would have the right to petition and present evidence that it should be lifted. At the end of one year, a new petition to continue the order may be filed. When the order expires and is not renewed, the guns would be returned to the individual and the order and all records of the proceedings would be sealed.

Research shows that people experiencing a crisis that puts them at risk of suicide are much more likely to survive if they do not have easy access to guns during the crisis. Nationwide, eighty-five percent of suicide attempts involving guns are fatal. A peer-reviewed study led by Duke University researchers found a measurable reduction in the suicide rate in Connecticut as a result of a law enacted in 1999 permitting police to seek protective orders and temporarily remove guns. Courts have upheld these kinds of laws, finding that they do not violate constitutional or due process rights.