Just because one approach doesn’t solve an entire problem doesn’t mean one shouldn’t employ any solutions at all.
But that’s the answer being offered by some opponents of New York’s new Red Flag law — which allows family members, prosecutors, teachers and others to request a court hearing to remove firearms from those deemed at extreme risk of harming themselves or others.
If one bill won’t solve the entire problem, they suggest, then do nothing.
That’s the wrong approach.
The right approach is to fix what you can, then fill the gaps left unfilled by the new law to make it even more effective.
The Red Flag law, (A2689/S2451) signed Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is solid, necessary legislation that contains multiple layers of legal protections so as not to deprive legitimate law-abiding gun owners of their weapons, while also protecting the public from emotionally or mentally unstable individuals who might go on a shooting spree.
Prior to this law’s passage, if a family member contacted law enforcement over fears a loved one posed a threat of violence, the most a court could do was issue a temporary order of protection.
Any domestic violence victim who has ever had an order of protection in place knows that if someone is bent on committing a violent act, that person is not going to let some piece of paper stop them.
This law gives the courts actual power to take away a tool of violence.
Still, opponents who say the new law doesn’t go far enough have a point.
There’s more than can be done.
Assemblyman Brian Manktelow from central New York says the law does “nothing to help these people during the time it takes to get this order in place, nor are we doing anything to help them ... while they wait for a hearing.”
He’s right. The person could find another way to hurt themselves or others.
So address that by addressing the conditions leading up to the person feeling compelled to use that weapon.
It might mean giving law enforcement broader authority to temporarily detain individuals deemed an immediate threat.
Certainly, we have laws against people threatening others. Do those need to be amended and toughened?
It might mean supporting state funding for mental-health counselors to intervene immediately when family members, law enforcement or educators bring emergency Red Flag petitions to the courts.
The state just can’t lock people away against their will for doing nothing. But it might be able to intercede more quickly when the public’s health or the health of an individual is at immediate risk.
Whatever they come up with, if the goal is to protect the public and individuals from harm, then the state has an obligation to do something.
It’s true; one new law will not solve every complex problem.
But it can be effective in addressing one aspect of the problem while being the catalyst for a more comprehensive, long-term solution.