So many guns were seized by the New York State Police last year under the state's "red flag" law that evidence custodians told a union official they were running out of space to store them.
The guns were tagged and arranged neatly, lined up on shelves or in cabinets. “People were saying, ‘Where the heck are we going to put all this?’” said Timothy Dymond, president of the New York State Police Investigators Association.
The packed evidence rooms were a result of one of the most ambitious experiments attempted with red-flag laws, which are used to prevent people at risk of harming themselves or others from possessing or buying firearms. In New York, the results have been dramatic, reports the Washington Post.
Last year, judges approved more than 4,300 final orders under the law, compared with 222 in 2021. At least 1,800 guns were removed by the state police and local law enforcement agencies in 2023.
New York’s approach was driven by rising gun deaths. After the 2022 massacre at a Buffalo supermarket, New York strengthened its red-flag law in a way unlike any other state, making it a requirement rather than an option for law enforcement authorities to pursue such orders.
Last year, the law was used to respond to an array of dangers, from suicide to mass violence, including a student who brought a gun to school and allegedly mentioned shooting a teacher, a teen who police said brandished a gun on a school bus, a man who threatened to shoot up a supermarket with his father's gun, and a woman experiencing delusions who brought a shotgun to a gas station.
Red-flag laws are associated with a decrease in the rate of firearm suicides, which account for more than half of the nation’s gun deaths. In Connecticut — the first state to pass a red-flag law — researchers estimated that one suicide was averted for every 10 or 11 gun removals.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, in her annual address to lawmakers on Jan. 9, said the gun-control legislation enacted by the state is “a model for the rest of the nation.”
Gun rights groups call the expanded use of the red-flag law overzealous and unconstitutional.
New York is one of 21 states with red-flag laws, the majority of them in in the last six years. The measures typically allow law enforcement and family members to petition a court to temporarily take guns away from someone at risk of harming themselves or others. “It’s a very tailored intervention,” said April Zeoli, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.