Kavanagh Announces Legislation to Enable New Yorkers to Petition Courts to Temporarily Deny Dangerous Individuals Access to Guns

Building on New Law Expected to Be Signed Today in California

NEW YORK – State Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh today announced new legislation to reduce the risk of gun violence by allowing New Yorkers to petition a court to temporarily deny access to guns for individuals the court finds pose a significant risk of injury or death to themselves or others.

The proposed law would permit concerned family members, friends, medical professionals, or others to petition a court and present evidence that an individual’s access to guns poses a danger to the individual or others. Upon reviewing the evidence and finding a significant risk of violence, the court would be empowered to act on the petition and issue a “Gun Violence Restraining Order” temporarily prohibiting the individual from acquiring or possessing guns. The individual would be entitled to a prompt hearing to respond to the petition and present any contrary evidence, and the court would only uphold the denial of access to guns if there is clear and convincing evidence of danger.

Kavanagh’s bill is modeled on California legislation written in response to the Isla Vista shootings in May. The parents of the shooter in Isla Vista had contacted law enforcement prior to the event, expressing grave concerns that their son was dangerously troubled. Tragically, although police officers questioned the son, there were no procedures or standards in place to formally review evidence of danger and take action. Three weeks later, he killed six people and injured thirteen others before taking his own life. The California bill, introduced by Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner and Das Williams and Senator Hannah Beth-Jackson, passed the full legislature there and Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign it today.

Similar concerns have frequently been raised about other individuals who commit acts of gun violence, both in high-profile mass shootings–such as those in Aurora, Colorado and Tuscon, Arizona–and the more common tragedies that occur daily in communities across the country. For example, many mass shooters are observed prior to the shootings to display signs of dangerous mental health issues and a majority of those considering suicide give some indication of their distress. However, currently family members or police who encounter dangerous individuals have few options for restricting access to guns.

“This law will help protect New Yorkers from tragic, preventable gun violence,” said Assemblymember Kavanagh. “We often think, after a gun violence tragedy involving someone who is obviously troubled, that someone must have known of the danger and should have spoken up. Unfortunately, currently people who become aware of such potential dangers have few meaningful actions they can take. Family members, mental health professionals, police, and others should be able to raise red flags regarding dangerous people with access to guns and have their concerns considered and acted upon when warranted.”

“Family members need to be able to intervene when a person is armed and at risk of injury to self or others. This new legislation will help prevent shootings before they happen and save lives,” said Brian Malte, Senior National Policy Director, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “This legislation would give families and law enforcement the tools needed to reduce the risk of mass shootings and gun violence both in the home and on our streets.”

Leah Gunn Barrett, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said, “A gun violence restraining order is an important new tool to help keep guns out of the wrong hands. Friends and family members are often the first to know when a loved one is at risk of dangerous behavior and a gun violence restraining order will enable intervention before the loved one harms themselves or others. Law enforcement will be able to temporarily remove guns already possessed by the at-risk person and prohibit them from making new gun purchases, allowing time for the family to seek help and treatment for their loved one.”

Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “There are few legal mechanisms for community members to prevent a potentially violent person from having access to guns. Even when there are clear warning signs that someone could be a danger to self or others, there is very little family, friends, or law enforcement can do to intervene. A gun violence restraining order would empower concerned community members and law enforcement officers to restrict access to guns by violent individuals and possibly prevent another tragedy like the Isla Vista shooting.”

“Loved ones and mental health professionals are some of the most valuable resources for flagging and preventing tragedies like those in Isla Vista and Tucson,” said Peter Ambler, Founder and 501(c)(4) Director of Americans for Responsible Solutions. “Gun violence restraining orders are a critical tool for law enforcement to stop all types of tragedies from occurring, whether they are mass shootings or the daily incidents experienced by communities across the nation.”

Joshua Horwitz, Executive Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said, “The Gun Violence Restraining Order is a great tool because it empowers family members to protect their loved ones when they’re in crisis. One of the innovative factors of the Gun Violence Restraining Order is that it looks at the indicators of dangerousness and is not dependent on a mental health diagnosis.”

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