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Katko introduces ‘red flag’ bill he says could have prevented Parkland shooting

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Tom Magnarelli
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WRVO Public Media
Rep. John Katko.

Law enforcement officials in central New York are supporting “red flag” legislation introduced by Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus). The bill aims to allow police to temporarily restrict access to firearms of an individual at extreme risk to themselves or others.

Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway said his office responds to calls from people who they believe should not be near or in possession of a gun.

“The 'red flag' law certainly would address this for us," Conway said. "It allows us more ability to try to prevent something from happening before it’s too late.”

Katko said the Protecting our Communities and Rights Act would prioritize grant funding to states that enact this type of legislation, which includes due process, where an individual would receive a hearing and a clear timeframe of how long a prohibition of firearms would last.

“It’s got bipartisan support, which is a real critical thing," Katko said. "Many individuals are concerned about Second Amendment rights. It protects Second Amendment rights. I think you’re going to have an awful lot of broad support on this. Whether it happens before or after the election is much less important to me, is the fact that it happens." 

Katko said the bill could prevent a shooting like the one at a high school in Parkland, Florida earlier this year. Katko said the cops were at the shooting suspect's house dozens of times, he was kicked out of school, torturing animals and posting pictures of himself with guns saying he wanted to be a school shooter.

“If you had those facts, and went to a judge and made an application under ‘clear and convincing’ evidence standard, this law, if it becomes law, and states adopt the parameters of this law, could then have a hearing with that individual, with counsel, and they can make a decision whether or not to get the guns out of the individual’s hands,” Katko said.

In a statement, Katko’s Democratic challenger Dana Balter called the bill weak and toothless and she criticized Katko’s support for legislation that allows gun owners to carry concealed handguns across state lines.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.