The heads of Cayuga County's top law enforcement agencies have differing views of the "red flag" law passed by the state Legislature this week.
The red flag bill, if signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would establish a method for asking a judge to issue a temporary risk protection order against someone if it's determined they are a risk to themselves or others.
Under the proposal passed by state lawmakers Tuesday, family members, law enforcement and school administrators would be authorized to seek a temporary risk protection order. If the order is granted, the bill states it will "prohibit the respondent from purchasing, possessing or attempting to purchase or possess a firearm, rifle or shotgun while the order is in effect."
If the individual already possesses any firearms, they must surrender the weapons to law enforcement. A court hearing will be held no later than six days after the temporary order is issued to determine whether a final extreme risk protection order is necessary.
There has been a push for red flag laws after a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were killed and 17 more were injured in a shooting at a high school. The gunman was a former student at the school. Police were warned about the shooter and his behavior years before the shooting.
Auburn Police Chief Shawn Butler is among those who support New York's red flag legislation. He delivered a presentation to the city council last year and joined with Jimmy Giannettino, an Auburn city councilor, to advocate for the state bill.
Butler's support of red flag legislation followed an incident in Auburn last year. A suicidal individual, an Auburn resident, called the Veterans Affairs' crisis hotline and threatened to harm themselves and police officers if they responded.
Auburn police responded to the residence. Officers were able to take the individual into custody for a mental health evaluation and treatment.
Butler on Thursday confirmed the resident legally owned firearms.
"The two often are a terrible combination," he said, referring to guns and mental illness, "and we as law enforcement need additional tools to help prevent senseless acts of violence often perpetrated by those suffering from mental illness."
While Butler is supportive of the red flag law, Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck has concerns with the bill. He believes an extreme risk protection order should only be issued after a "thorough investigation" by law enforcement, which would then make a recommendation to the court.
He agrees that law enforcement — a district's attorney office or police agency — could make the requests, but doesn't believe family members or school officials should be able to petition a court for an extreme risk protection order.
"There are circumstances where such an order would be in the best interest of public safety; however, I am very concerned that this legislation has not been well thought out," he said. "There needs to be a thorough investigation to support the petition for such an order to protect the due process rights of the individual the order is issued against. This will not be the cause if just anyone can petition the court directly."
Butler, who said he's a "firm believer" in an individual's right to bear arms, shares the view that due process rights must be preserved.
Mandating probable cause requirements as part of the decision to seize guns, he wrote in an email to The Citizen, is important.
"This will protect our citizens from arbitrary seizures if no imminent threat can be shown," he said.
Despite Butler's advocacy for red flag legislation, there wasn't support for the proposal among the Auburn-area's state legislative delegation. Assemblyman Brian Manktelow opposed the proposal. The county's three state senators, Bob Antonacci, Pam Helming and Jim Seward, also voted against the bill.
With the state Legislature's passage of the red flag measure, it now goes to Cuomo's desk for his review. The governor supports the red flag law and included it in his legislative agenda for the year.