Less than a year after investigating a white teenager in New York state for making a threatening statement at school, authorities said, he legally purchased a firearm, which he is accused of using to kill 10 black people in a racist attack.
The massacre at the Top Friendly Market in Buffalo on Saturday was supposed to be thwarted by New York red flag lawwhich aims to prevent people from buying or possessing firearms when they appear to pose a threat to themselves or others, gun policy experts said.
“It was specifically designed for the circumstance,” said David Bosino, deputy senior counsel at Giffords Law Center, a wartime safety group.
Instead, after Payton Gendron appeared on New York State Police’s radar in June for a frightening comment about a murderous suicide he committed in the classroom while still a minor, he was evaluated and acquitted, paving the way for him legally, law enforcement officials and the New York state governor said. Kathy Hochhol said the purchase of the semi-automatic rifle he was accused of using in the shootings took place 11 months later.
A New York State Police spokesman said Monday that no officials involved in the investigation in June had initiated judicial proceedings that could have helped prevent Gendron from buying the gun.
Now, state lawmakers are looking into whether those involved followed appropriate protocol. “I asked for an investigation into what exactly happened there,” Hochhol told Buffalo. Radio WKSE on Monday.
Hochul said a teacher asked Gendron about his plans before the start of summer vacation last year. “I want to kill and commit suicide,” Hochul said.
Hoshol said school officials immediately alerted the police. Hochul said Gendron underwent a psychiatric evaluation and was released, adding that there was “no specific threat” or “something that seemed to be actionable.”
“There was nothing that was reported that he would not be able — since that confrontation, at the time — to go to a store and buy a gun,” she said. “Now, we need to question that too. There are a lot of layers here that we need to get to the bottom of and see if changes need to be made.”
enacted in 2019, Red Flag Law in New York It enables school administrators, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and family members to pursue court intervention when they believe they know someone who is at high risk of harming themselves or others.
By law, a judge can issue a high-risk protection order “very quickly,” which can order a person, a minor or an adult, to surrender any firearms, as well as not attempt to possess or purchase any.
Such an order does not come with criminal charges or penalties. Weapon policy experts said it was intended to keep weapons away from dangerous people.
Posino said he believed the lack of awareness of the nearly three-year-old law likely resulted in law enforcement not seeking a court order. He said it was hard to speculate about the agency’s acquittal of Gendron, especially without all the information the investigators had. But he said their determination was shocking and “puzzling”.
“They investigate the risks and then decide there is no risk. Obviously this was a mistake,” Bosino said, adding that there was no need for someone specific threat to ask for an extreme risk protection order.
“If I had a situation where someone raised these kinds of threats, I think I would go after every available option to make sure they couldn’t get a gun,” he added.
Posino said other proposed gun safety measures, including a ban on the sale of semi-automatic rifles to those under 21, may have helped avoid the shooting in Buffalo. Courts recently struck down such a law in California, calling it unconstitutional.
A spokesperson for the New York Unified State Courts said that since the New York Red Flag Act went into effect on August 25, 2019, 1,464 maximum risk protection orders have been issued. Senator Brian Kavanaugh, who sponsored the legislation, said at least 530 orders were issued in the first year the law was implemented.
Although there’s no way to gauge whether any one thing helped avert a particular tragedy, Kavanaugh and Puccino said peer-reviewed evidence has found that red flag laws in Indiana and Connecticut have prevented gun deaths, including That’s suicides.
When the New York law was drawn up, Kavanaugh said, it was the first law in the country to encourage school officials, including teachers, to use the court system to avoid school shootings.
“We might learn something from this experience, and make some change in the law if necessary,” Kavanagh said. “But at this point, if there was evidence that this guy was dangerous last June, then someone should have sought an order. extremely dangerous.”
Meanwhile, amid congressional inaction on gun violence, Kavanaugh said, violence, including shootings fueled by racial hatred, will continue as long as there is easy access to guns in America.
“We feel sad and panicked,” he said. “But we also have to realize that these things are going to keep happening until we take action.”