Activists rallied on Sept. 7 outside the Nassau County Supreme Court to demand stronger enforcement of the New York State’s red flag laws.
The protest came just days after school on Long Island started back up. Groups involved included Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Nassau County Gun Sense candidates for this year’s elections, gun violence survivors, and concerned parents.
The protest was centered around the fact that last year Suffolk County led the state in issuing extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), while Nassau issued less than 40.
Candidates Demand Better Enforcement of Red Flag Laws
“The fact that 1500 extreme risk protection orders were issued in Suffolk last year, and only 35 were issued in Nassau, is offense as a professional and terrifying as a father,” Seth Koslow, attorney and candidate for the fifth district of the Nassau County Legislature, told the Press. “I’m a father of three young kids and I don’t want them or any of their friends to be the next statistic. We need to do more to protect our kids from gun violence, and one way we can do that is to ensure that people who are a danger to themselves or others do not have access to weapons.”
Weihua Yan, another member of the Gun Sense Candidates who is running for office in Nassau’s tenth legislative district, mentioned that the current red flag laws — which enable ERPOs to be given out — are good, but are not being carried out properly.
“The law has been used successfully thousands of times across the state,” Yan said. “But Nassau County has not been enforcing it. We have to make sure that our government puts the lives of people ahead of politics.”
Another candidate, Alexis Pace, currently serves on the Long Beach Board of Education. She is running in Nassau’s fourth district.
“It’s important to raise awareness in Nassau County — our partners in Suffolk County are beating us to this,” Pace told the Press. “We need to be on par with this on Long Island. Our students need to be safe, and our parents need to feel that they’re safe. We no longer have the luxury of assuming safety — we have to put in laws.”
Pace herself is a victim of gun violence.
“When I was in high school, I was at a club,” she said. “There was a gang that rushed the door. They had guns and knives. They blew out all the car windows around us. We were in the car out front and had to dive under the seat. It was terrifying and I’ll never forget. Not only am I an advocate of gun safety, but I’m a victim of something that could have gone horribly wrong.”
Activists Speak Out
One of the speakers at the news conference was Linda Beigel Schulman, mother of Scott Beigel, a geography teacher and coach who was killed in the 2018 Parkland shooting.
“We should not be here today,” Beigel Schulman said plainly.
Beigel Schulman went on to say that the Parkland shooting could have been avoided if there had been red flag laws, saying that the perpetrator in that shooting — Nikolas Cruz — had been known as “Crazy Boy.”
“One teacher told me that she had ‘Crazy Boy’ in her class for two years,” she said. “And when she saw that he was going to be in her classroom again, she told the administration that she would resign her position before having to deal with him in class ever again. They knew he had guns, they knew he had severe emotional issues. Unfortunately, Florida did not have a red flag law prior to February 14, 2018.”
Deanna Drury, a member of the Everytown Survivor Network, told her own story of loss to gun violence — and how red flag laws can also prevent suicide.
“My Uncle Tom killed himself with a gun,” Drury said. “He was back from the military, had a bad day, and he shot himself. I ask myself — if he didn’t have access to a gun, would he still be here? 90 percent of suicide attempts with a gun are successful, while only four percent are fatal without. And the vast majority of suicide attempt survivors do not attempt again.”
Drury went on to explain that her mother suffered from depression and alcoholism from this event, and nearly committed suicide herself.
“We got to her in time, and got her the help she needed,” Drury said. “I’m grateful that, on her bad day, she did not have access to a gun. ERPOs allow people in crisis the chance to obtain the help they need.”