By TOM GANTERT
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – The state of New York has been under a statewide ‘disaster emergency’ due to gun violence for more than a year, expanding the authority of the governor’s office.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the initial declaration on July 6, 2021, making the Empire State the first to enact such a move. On June 20, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul – formerly the lieutenant governor who succeeded Mr. Cuomo when he resigned last August in disgrace for personal missteps – extended the measure until July 20, a step she has taken multiple times in her first 10 months.
Following the state’s lead, the city of Rochester also enacted a gun violence emergency order in 2021 that gave the police the power to shut down private businesses it deemed a nuisance.
Gov. Hochul issued an executive order on May 18 that state police be trained and instructed to file applications for an “extreme risk protection order.” The red flag law prevents people who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from buying or possessing any kind of firearm.
Gov. Hochul’s executive order on the red flag law cited “violent white supremacist extremists inspired by ‘replacement theory’ carrying out deadly shootings” in Pittsburgh, California, Texas and Buffalo as rationale for the order.
Some legal experts fear that government leaders who got the first taste of unprecedented emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic would search for other ways to broaden their powers.
Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation in Michigan that stripped Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of her emergency powers by winning a state Supreme Court case, said the fear at the time was that governors would enact state of emergencies on “every pet issue.”
“Once a governor has a taste to govern without legislators, they would want to keep doing it forever and everything would become an emergency,” Mr. Wright said.
Mr. Cuomo said last July, when he signed the original order, that gun violence was the leading cause of premature death in the U.S. and that gun injuries annually cost $280 billion in health care and societal costs. He also noted in his emergency order that gun violence was up 48% in New York City, 22% in Albany, 88% in Buffalo and 95% in Rochester.
He further said “at least 50% of homicides and 55% of nonfatal shootings involve people associated with gangs or more loosely-affiliated ‘street groups.'”
Gov. Hochul has renewed the emergency order multiple times since then.