Brooklyn, NY Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon released the following statement in response to her red flag bill which goes into effect in New York State this month, the Presidents mischaracterization of red flag laws, and the recent mass shootings in Texas, Ohio, California, and Brooklyn, NY:
I am sick of the excuses that have made gun violence par for the course in our country. In fact, it is not normal and it is a uniquely American problem. It is far too easy for people to access guns in America. Mass shootings are terrifying and are happening at an alarming rate, but we must also stay focused on the other forms of gun violence that kill over 100 people every day. As our country mourns, we must take action.
I sponsored New Yorks red flag law, or the temporary Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law, which goes into effect this month. ERPO creates a court-issued order of protection that temporarily prohibits individuals from purchasing or possessing guns if a family member, law enforcement officer, or school administrator petitions a court and the court finds that the individual is likely to engage in conduct that would harm themselves or others.
President Trump recently called attention to red flag laws, though it is clear that he doesnt understand the bill or this issue. He was wrong to describe ERPOs as a response to a mental health diagnosis and to perpetuate the gun rights lobbys claim that gun violence is always tied to mental health issues. That inaccurate oversimplification allows the NRA to thwart common sense measures like assault rifle bans. ERPOs are not issued based on a mental health diagnosis, but rather on significant demonstrable evidence that a person is likely to cause harm, which may include a persons recent words or actions. ERPOs are temporary, similar to a Temporary Restraining Order, and they are not a permanent deprivation of a persons firearm.
Linking gun violence to mental illness further stigmatizes mental illness. Experts have noted that people with mental health diagnoses are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. The issue is not mental illness, but rather access to guns. The shootings in El Paso and Dayton were acts of domestic terrorism, which were fueled by racist ideologies and hate by shooters who used military-style weapons and who sought validation of their motives. While Trump has given lip service to ending a culture of violence, his racist rhetoric and fear-mongering gives people carte blanche to act out of hate. If he was serious about condemning these acts, he would change his language and policies and push for comprehensive gun violence prevention laws. Instead, the President has implemented regulatory and policy changes that ease access to guns.
Similarly, if Congress was serious about ending gun violence, they would pass a ban on assault weapons, strengthen background checks, require safe storage of firearms, and fund the CDC to conduct gun violence prevention research. The U.S. Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, should also stop refusing to take up the background check bill that the House passed. States must also take more action, including enacting ERPOs and comprehensive reforms.