Two days after teaming up with Mayor Adams to roll out a new subway safety plan, Gov. Hochul on Monday joined state Attorney General Letitia James to detail enhanced efforts in the state’s anti-gun battle, including a marked expansion in use of the New York’s so-called red flag law.
Hochul, who signed red flag legislation in June requiring that authorities respond to credible threats by pursuing extreme risk protection orders preventing people from acquiring or possessing firearms, said the state is now issuing about nine times as many risk orders per month as it was before the law was enacted.
“Our red flag laws are working,” Hochul said at a news conference with James at the State Capitol in Albany. “I want to thank law enforcement throughout the state. They have had to step up. They have had to be trained. They have had to rethink their mission. But these times call for that.”
Hochul denied Monday’s event, or this weekend’s subway crime crackdown announcement, had anything to do with recent polls showing Republican challenger Lee Zeldin gaining on her as Election Day nears.
“This is really a fight across our nation,” she said. “It’s been my priority. It’s not a new development. It’s something we’ve focused on with great intensity.”
Zeldin, a Trump-tied congressman from Long Island with a law-and-order message, has painted Hochul as soft on crime and vowed to declare a state of emergency if elected on Nov. 8 that would allow him to suspend criminal justice reforms including New York’s cashless bail laws.
Hochul, a Democrat seeking to become the first woman elected governor of New York after replacing former Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year, said Zeldin’s line of attack has had no bearing on her approach to governing and addressing issues like public safety.
“I’m not letting the political theater out there affect what we’ve done,” she said. “This is not a new issue for me and I think that’s well established.”
The governor added that she understands New Yorkers’ anxieties about crime rates that have flared higher during the pandemic and, in many cases, are still rising.
“New Yorkers want to know this: Are you focused on this? Are you taking steps? Are you making a difference?” Hochul said of crime. “The answer is: Yes.”
According to the governor, the number of extreme risk protection orders approved more than doubled since the expansion of the red flag law with more than 1,900 being issued in total over the past four months.
Between October 2019 and May 2022, New York officials issued about 45 such orders per month. The tally jumped to 403 per month over the last five months, according to the governor’s office.
Hochul also noted that state and local police have seized 8,000 illegal guns so far this past year. James said her office has recovered 3,500 illegal weapons since January.
In addition to touting new red flag data, Hochul and James announced Monday that the state is providing the attorney general’s office with $4.6 million to support a new unit of lawyers and staffers dedicated to assisting State Police with requests for extreme risk protection orders.
“This is an issue that is impacting all of us,” James said, noting that the attorneys will be spread across the state. “We know that these laws work. We know that they can save lives and prevent tragedies.”
Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt (R-Lockport), however, said the presser showed Hochul is out of touch with the average New Yorker and called the event an “Election Day ‘Hail Mary.’”
“These resources and more should already be in place,” Ortt said. “These statements also display a total failure of leadership and are insulting to millions of New Yorkers who fear for their safety.”