Gov. Kathy Hochul rolled out a series of actions Wednesday to zone in on extremism from white supremacists and tighten gun control restrictions statewide, in the wake of a mass shooting in Buffalo that killed 10 people.
Hochul unveiled a slate of measures from her Manhattan office that included the strengthening of the state’s “Red Flag” law by directing the State Police, through an executive order, to file an “extreme risk” order of protection “when they believe that an individual is a threat to himself or herself or others.”
Questions have swarmed around the effectiveness of the current law after the accused gunman, an 18-year-old Conklin, N.Y. resident, was able to legally buy a gun after threatening to commit a murder-suicide upon graduating from high school.
Since 2019, family members, law enforcement officials and school administrators have been allowed to petition a judge to block someone from buying a gun under New York State’s Red Flag law, but advocates say it’s not widely known about and rarely used. In the case of the accused gunman, state police were aware of threats he made last June, but did not initiate the process that could have blocked him from buying a gun.
“The truth is the most serious threat we face as a nation is from within,” Hochul said. “It’s not from the Russians, not from people elsewhere. It's white supremacism. It's white nationalism. And it's time we confronted it head on.”
The shooting sent shockwaves around the country as major cities grapple with a rising tide of gun violence that has occurred alongside a spike in hate crimes against minority groups.
The Buffalo attack, which killed 10 people and injured three, was carried out in a grocery store in a predominantly Black community. The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime. Of 13 people shot, eleven were Black.
Hochul signed another executive order that creates a new domestic terrorism unit within the Office of Counter Terrorism that will focus on "deradicalization" and establishes a State Police unit to track extremist threats on social media.
Hochul also announced a referral from her office to that of New York Attorney General Tish James to investigate certain social media companies over their use by the accused Buffalo shooter and others looking to disseminate violence. James’ office followed with its own announcement, accepting the governor’s referral and noting that Twitch, 4chan, 8chan, and Discord would be among the companies included in the investigation.