House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Governor Andrew Cuomo at the signing of New York's "red flag" gun control bill at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan on Monday morning, a symbolic gesture seemingly intended to signal Democratic priorities.
"This gun violence issue is a national health epidemic in our country," Pelosi told reporters. "And Mr. President, if you want to talk about emergencies, this is an emergency."
The Red Flag Bill is now law.
Thank you @SpeakerPelosi for joining me today to sign this life-saving legislation into law.
The Red Flag Bill will save lives by empowering school teachers to do something when they believe something bad is going to happen. pic.twitter.com/s3aBKze3kK
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) February 25, 2019
Cuomo, meanwhile, touted the legislation as a life-saving measure that "doesn't infringe on anyone's rights," the first of its kind in the nation. It's one part of a package of gun safety bills the state legislature passed in late January. Starting in 180 days, family members, law enforcement officers, and school administrators can seek an Extreme Risk Protection Order from a judge, providing for the confiscation of firearms from gun owners for up to one year, if a hearing determines that they might pose a threat. The "red flag" bill is the first of the set that Cuomo has signed into law, although he has pledged support for all of them.
At the signing ceremony, flanked by Pelosi and other gun control advocates, Cuomo also took a swipe at Donald Trump and his argument that allowing teachers to carry guns in the classroom might keep students safe during a shooting. "I mean, how ludicrous a concept: Arm the teacher so when the bad person comes into the classroom there can be a shootout," Cuomo said. "No, arm and empower the teacher with the law, so that when they see there's a problem ... or a family member sees there's a problem and believes that person can be a danger to themselves or others, they can go to a judge and say, 'Judge, please do an evaluation.' It is common sense."
"If you believe that [a shooting] was going to happen, why would you sit back and do nothing?" he added. And indeed, the available evidence suggests that more guns mean more gun deaths, especially in an already chaotic situation.
Predictably, the gun rights lobby is displeased with the new law. "I don't want mentally challenged individuals getting a firearm, but this red flag law lacks any sense of due process," New York State Rifle and Pistol Association executive director and NRA board member Tom King told Buffalo News, apparently overlooking the hearing that would precede a judge's confiscation ruling.
In January, Pelosi backed a House bill that would expand background checks on firearms purchases, prompting the NRA to run an inflammatory article in the March issue of its magazine, American Rifleman. Headlined "Target Practice," it features a photo of Pelosi and former Representative Gabby Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who survived a shot in the head in 2011. Undeterred, Pelosi said Monday that Congress would be discussing a series of gun violence-related measures this week.
"It's not about taking guns away from people," she told reporters today. "It's just making sure that the law is effective and doing a background check in a timely way."