Gov. Kathy Hochul revealed proposed measures to combat the rise of domestic terrorism and violent extremism, as direct response to racist shooting attack at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store that killed 10 on Saturday.
"The horrific and despicable act of terror committed by a white supremacist this past weekend in Buffalo showed that we as a country are facing an intersection of two crises: the mainstreaming of hate speech - including white nationalism, racism and white supremacy - and the easy access to military-style weapons and magazines," Hochul said in a statement following her announcement Wednesday. "This is a wake-up call and here in New York we are taking strong steps to directly address this deadly threat."
Hochul signed two executive orders, with the first calling for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to establish a new unit, dedicated solely to the prevention of domestic terrorism.
According to Hochul's office, the creation of the new unit referenced in one of the executive orders "will focus on threat assessment management, disbursing funding to localities to create and operate their own threat assessment management teams and utilizing social media to intervene in the radicalization process. It will also educate law enforcement members, mental health professionals and school officials on the recent uptick in domestic and homegrown violent extremism and radicalization, as well as create best practices for identifying and intervening in the radicalization process."
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Additionally, this executive order also calls for the state police to establish a dedicated unit within the New York State Intelligence Center to track domestic violent extremism through social media.
BUFFALO MASS SHOOTING
Meanwhile, the second executive order that Hochul signed will require the state police to file an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) under New York State's Red Flag Law whenever they have probable cause to believe that an individual is a threat to themselves or others.
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.
Removing weapons for that long, however, requires a hearing in which prosecutors must convince a judge that the person poses a risk. Most states also block the person from buying more guns during that period.
Red-flag laws are often adopted after tragedies. Florida did so after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 students. Law enforcement officials had received numerous complaints about the 19-year-old gunman’s threatening statements.
"Today, I issued Executive Orders to devote substantial resources and focus toward combating the troubling surge in domestic terrorism by identifying radicalized individuals and tracking their threats amplified on social media, and further empower State Police to keep guns away from dangerous people," Hochul said.
The governor also issued a referral letter to Attorney General Letitia James to probe social media's role in the Buffalo shooting. Investigators will look at online resources the gunman "used to discuss and amplify his intentions and acts to carry out this attack."
Hochul said she will also work with legislators to pass two bills that aim to address and streamline the investigations connected to gun-related crimes, including "semiautomatic pistols manufactured or delivered to licensed dealers in the state to be microstamping-enabled" in order to mark bullets and casings and link them to potential crimes.
The second bill calls for law enforcement agencies to report the recovery of a gun connected to any crime within 24 hours of their discovery.
Hochul is also proposing new legislation to close a gun loophole by widening the definition of a firearm in order to make more guns subject to preexisting firearm laws.
The executive orders and proposed legislation come following the tragic events over the weekend in which authorities allege that an 18-year-old, white gunman committed the massacre at the Tops Friendly Market-- a massacre they say was driven by racism. Authorities have said that the suspect allegedly planned to continue his rampage down the street before he was stopped.
Investigators pouring through the gunman's history and evidence obtained at the scene as well as house say he wanted to keep targeting Black Buffalo residents after the supermarket attack.