Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Back to School Red Flag Rally in Nassau

Local leaders highlight gun violence crisis affecting children and teens, seek parity with Suffolk’s rigorous Red Flag law campaign


MINEOLA, N.Y.Sept. 7, 2023PRLog — As students headed back to school this week, gun violence prevention advocates including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Linda Beigel Schulman, gun violence survivors, concerned parents, and Nassau County Gun Sense Candidates held a rally at the Nassau County Supreme Court to urge more rigorous local enforcement of New York State’s recently-enhanced Red Flag law. In circumstances where a person may be a danger to themself or others, this policy allows police, family members and neighbors, healthcare practitioners, and school officials to petition to temporarily remove that person’s guns (i.e. issue a Red Flag order) until after a judicial hearing. In Nassau, enforcement is not nearly as rigorous as it should be.

The rally, held during most students’ first week back to school, is a response to the pandemic-era increase in youth gun deaths, including by suicide. A study published last month in Pediatrics found that firearm deaths among children increased 41.6% between 2018 and 2021—guns were the leading cause of death among American children. And a March 2023 study in Pediatrics found that youth suicides increased significantly during the first year of the pandemic, as did youth suicides by firearm.

“As a father, I know how much stress our kids are dealing with nowadays; that stress can lead to violence, inflicted towards themselves or others,” said Seth Koslow, the Gun Sense Candidate running to represent the fifth Legislative District. “To protect our kids, we need to cut off their access to firearms when they are in severe distress. We have the state law in place to do that, but it’s just not being enforced in Nassau.”

In response to the shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in May 2022 that killed ten people and injured three more, New York State took definitive action to strengthen our gun violence protections. Among other measures, NYS expanded its existing Red Flag law (https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-signs-la…), requiring local police and district attorneys to file Red Flag orders when they have “acquired credible information that an individual is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm—either to themselves or others.”

Suffolk County has led the state in enforcing this mandate, issuing more than 1,500 such orders in one year (https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/new-york-red-fl…). The vast majority of these orders were issued in response to 911 calls or other warnings of self-harm (https://paper.newsday.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?edid=f8b9a9f4-c53d-4d49-9795-099219c25515). Nassau has not taken equivalent action, issuing less than 40 Red Flag orders in one year (https://www.newsday.com/news/region-state/new-york-red-flag-orders-suffolk-county-kathy-hochul-buffalo-shootings-fux5wfhq).

Linda Beigel Schulman, whose son, Scott J. Beigel, was a teacher and cross-country coach murdered in the Parkland High School shooting in 2018, said, “The shooter who killed my son was known to the authorities and school officials as ‘crazy boy’. They knew he had guns and had severe emotional issues. If Florida had a Red Flag Law prior to February 14, my son would be alive today.  Within months of the shooting, Florida, one of the most pro-gun states, enacted their Red Flag Law.  The Red Flag Law in Florida has been invoked over 8000 times since its enactment (https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/01/politics/florida-red-flag-law/index.html)—which unquestionably has prevented more shootings and saved lives.  Why are the Nassau County Republicans against preventing more gun deaths by making use of this highly effective, reasonable and constitutional gun safety legislation?”

“A Red Flag order could have saved my uncle, who died by gun suicide,” said Deanna Drury, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network. “My family’s story is one of many examples where temporarily removing firearms could have saved a life, and I am sharing with you in the hopes that together we can prevent further tragedy.  The vast majority of survivors of a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide. ERPOs allow people in crisis the chance to obtain the help they need.”

Advocates and candidates at the rally outlined ways to increase the use of Red Flag orders. Education about our Red Flag law can increase community members’ use of them. Jana Nesbitt Gale, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action on Long Island, spoke about normalizing what can seem like hard conversations to have, “We need to let people know when we are worried about them—adults and children—and we need to make talking about guns and suicide less taboo. Red Flag Laws allow us to help in the immediate situation and prevent loved ones, neighbors and our law enforcement community from having to deal with a possibly fatal situation.”

“Everything starts with education,” said Alexis Pace, the Gun Sense Candidate running to represent the fourth Legislative District. “We need the County’s help to teach our school officials, our healthcare workers, and our police how to use our Red Flag law.”

The rally attendees vowed to continue their push for rigorous Red Flag law enforcement, as Nassau County’s schoolchildren have a right to safety from gun violence.

“It’s unacceptable that the law is not being enforced in Nassau County,” said Weihua Yan, the Gun Sense Candidate running to represent the tenth Legislative District, which encompasses Great Neck and parts of New Hyde Park and Manhasset. “In my district, which has some of the largest AAPI and Jewish populations on Long Island, we are left vulnerable to the possibility of violent hate crimes like we saw last year in Buffalo or this year in California and Jacksonville. The time for talk is over—we need to enforce these laws now.”

Thank You!

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