Taking guns from dangerous hands

Devin Patrick Kelley shared this photo of one of his rifles just days before killing 26 people and wounding 20 others at a church in rural Texas. Two bills in the state Legislature would make it easier for authorities to take guns away from domestic abusers and those who are considered a risk to themselves and others.


Following Sunday’s mass shooting in a Texas church, Sen. Brad Hoylman is urging colleagues to take action on his legislation that would take guns away from domestic abusers.

Hoylman, D-Manhattan, is calling on fellow senators to revisit and pass his Safe Homes Act (S.67) which would allow law enforcement to remove firearms from homes where a domestic abuse arrest is made.

In the wake of the latest mass murder this week, in which Devin Patrick Kelley — a 26-year-old-man with a long history of domestic violence — killed 26 people and injured 20 more inside a church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas, Senator Hoylman says he is eager to get weapons out of the hands of abusers.

“It’s really a dereliction of our duties as lawmakers if we don’t recognize the reality of gun violence in our society and place reasonable restrictions on the accessibility of firearms,” Hoylman said.

Although Kelley was convicted for assaulting his wife and her young son – even fracturing the boy’s skull – the Air Force failed to properly report his conviction and subsequent discharge for domestic violence, allowing him to legally purchase weapons he would not have been able to otherwise.

Devin Patrick Kelley

Specifically, Hoylman’s legislation would require police responding to a domestic violence incident to determine whether there are firearms present at the scene, and if an arrest is made, re-move the guns and gun licenses until the court adjudicating the offense authorizes their release.

It goes a step further than the federal Lautenberg Act of 1996, which makes it illegal for anyone convicted of domestic abuse to buy or possess a firearm. Under Hoylman’s bill, the confiscation would occur at the time of an arrest, not a conviction.

“Giving police the authorization to remove deadly weapons from the scene of reported abuse creates a crucial ‘cooling down’ period,” Hoylman said.

With a history of domestic abuse, animal cruelty and escaping from a mental health facility, Kel-ey was unfit to own a gun, by most standards. And widespread news reports show there were clear signs in recent years that he was becoming increasingly violent and unstable.

Another of Hoylman’s bills, S.5447, goes even further than the Safe Homes Act and the Lautenberg Act by empowering family members and law enforcement to petition a court to have a per-son’s access to guns temporarily suspended if it is believed they are at risk of harming themselves or others.

Specifically, the bill would create something called an “Extreme Risk Protection Order,” which could be sought by family members and police, to take a person’s guns away if they are considered a dangerous threat to themselves or others.

The bill’s justification states that family and others in the household are often the first to know when someone is experiencing a crisis or exhibiting dangerous behavior. They may report their fears to police, but in New York, law enforcement officers may not have the authority to inter-vene based on the evidence they are provided.

Hoylman says that if there had been a legal mechanism to take guns away from Devin Kelley — a former airman who was court-martialed for assaulting his wife and fracturing her child’s skull — Sunday’s shooting may have been avoided.

“With each new incident of violence, we’re told that now is not the time to act, that gun violence is inevitable, and the best we can do is offer thoughts and prayers,” Hoylman said. “Thoughts and prayer are not enough, it’s time for my Senate colleagues to help end the cycle of gun violence by bringing these bills to a vote come January.”

The bills have garnered support among some fellow Democrats.

“Now is the time for action and it’s simple, domestic abusers should not be allowed to keep guns in their home,” said Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Both of Hoylman’s bills have companion bills in the Assembly.

The Safe Homes Act is co-sponsored in the Assembly by Nily Rozic, D-Queens, and the Extreme Risk Protection Order is sponsored by Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, D-Manhattan.