Red Flag Laws Should Have Kept Buffalo Shooter From Buying Weapons Legally
There’s been a lot of tough talk by state politicians in the nearly two weeks after the killing of 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store.
While much of that talk has been with an eye toward new measures to prevent mass shootings as happened in Buffalo, we hope state lawmakers ask themselves the tough question of why the state’s much-discussed, much-ballyhooed red flag law didn’t keep an AR-15-style rifle out of the hands of a teenager who had shown more then enough red flags, in our opinion, from ever owning a gun legally.
Payton Gendron made a general threat at Susquehanna Valley High School when he was 17 that resulted in state police being called and a mental health evaluation at a hospital. Gendron had talked about murder and suicide when a teacher asked about his plans after school ended. While the threat was reported quickly, it wasn’t considered specific enough to do more. And, no request was ever made to remove any firearms from Gendron.
In hindsight, it was a monumental mistake.
Consider Gendron wore a hazmat suit to school and said he wanted to commit a murder-suicide after graduating. He was hospitalized for a 36 hours and made no secret online of his plans to carry out some sort of attack.
The use of a red flag examination should result in some notification during a background check when purchasing a weapon that more examination of the potential purchaser is needed. And, as Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, noted in his comments on the Senate floor, the state needs to give mental health professionals more time to examine patients to see if they are truly a danger to society.
Despite the toughest gun laws in the country, a New York teenager committed a heinous act that snuffed the lives of 10 people in an instant. Tough talk didn’t prevent the racist killing of 10 people, and what was in our view a breakdown of the state’s red flag law surely didn’t help. We are angry and hurt over what happened in Buffalo. But we must channel that anger and hurt into rational, coherent policy rather than just tough talk.