BUFFALO (AP) – Less than a year before he opened fire and killed 10 people in a racist attack at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store, 18-year-old Payton Gendron was investigated for making a threatening statement at his high school.
New York has a “red flag” law designed to keep firearms away from people who could harm themselves or others, but Gendron was still able to legally buy an AR-15-style rifle.
The “general” threat at Susquehanna Valley High School last June, when he was 17, resulted in state police being called and a mental health evaluation at a hospital. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told Buffalo radio station WKSE-FM that Gendron had talked about murder and suicide when a teacher asked about his plans after school ended, and it was quickly reported but the threat wasn’t considered specific enough to do more. No request was made to remove any firearms from the suspect, New York state police said Monday.
The revelations are raising new questions about why the law wasn’t invoked and how the effectiveness of “red flag laws” passed in 19 states and the District of Columbia can differ based on how they’re implemented.
WHAT ARE RED FLAG LAWS?
Typically, red-flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, are intended to temporarily remove guns from people with potentially violent behavior, usually up to a year. In many cases, family members or law enforcement must petition the court for an order, though New York is a rare state in which educators can also start the process.