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Hochul announces support for comprehensive package to combat rise in domestic terrorism


Wed, May 18th 2022 06:10 pm

Signs executive order to establish a new domestic terrorism unit within Office of Counter Terrorism, with focus on deradicalization and threat assessment management; establishes State Police unit devoted to tracking and responding to extremist violent threats on social media

√ Signs executive order requiring State Police to file extreme risk protection orders with probable cause under NYS Red Flag Law to prohibit potentially dangerous people from purchasing and possessing guns

√ Proposes legislation to close ‘other gun’ loophole by revising and widening definition of a firearm to get dangerous guns off streets

√ Will work with Legislature to pass legislation to strengthen crime gun reporting and require microstamping of semiautomatic pistols to help law enforcement better track guns fired during crimes

√ Issues referral to Office of the Attorney General to investigate social media platforms used by Buffalo shooting suspect to broadcast, promote and facilitate violence

In direct response to what her team called a “white supremacist act of terror” at a supermarket on Saturday in Buffalo, Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled “a comprehensive package to combat the steady rise in domestic terrorism and violent extremism, strengthen and close loopholes in state gun laws, and crack down on social media platforms that host and amplify content that promotes and broadcasts violent, lawless acts and endangers our communities.”

Hochul said, "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. This is a wake-up call and, here in New York, we are taking strong steps to directly address this deadly threat.

“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. I am also issuing a referral letter to the attorney general to investigate social media's role in the Buffalo shooting, and am calling for the passage of several pieces of legislation that will help law enforcement get more guns off the street."

She added, "We will continue to confront this epidemic head-on, stamp out extremists who threaten our communities, strengthen the toughest gun laws in the country and do whatever it takes to keep New Yorkers safe.”

Attorney General Letitia James said, "The terror attack in Buffalo has once again revealed the depths and danger of the online forums that spread and promote hate. The fact that an individual can post detailed plans to commit such an act of hate without consequence and then stream it for the world to see is bone-chilling and unfathomable. As we continue to mourn and honor the lives that were stolen, we are taking serious action to investigate these companies for their roles in this attack. Time and time again, we have seen the real-world devastation that is borne of these dangerous and hateful platforms, and we are doing everything in our power to shine a spotlight on this dangerous behavior and take action to ensure it never happens again."

Among these measures, Hochul has issued two executive orders.

Her team said, “The first executive order is designed to fight the troubling surge in domestic terrorism and violent extremism frequently inspired by, planned on and posted about on social media platforms and internet forums. The executive order calls on the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to establish a new unit, dedicated solely to the prevention of domestic terrorism, within the division's office of counter terrorism. This new unit 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.”

The executive order also calls on New York State Police to establish a dedicated unit within the New York State Intelligence Center (NYSIC) to track domestic violent extremism through social media. The unit will develop investigative leads through social media analysis, with a specific focus on identifying possible threats and individuals motivated by radicalization and violent extremism. Finally, the executive order calls on every county to perform an exhaustive review of its current strategies, policies and procedures for confronting threats of domestic terrorism.

The second executive order will require State Police to file for 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.

Hochul also issued a referral to the Office of the Attorney General under Executive Law Section 63(8) to “investigate and study the social media platforms that were utilized by the Buffalo shooting suspect to broadcast, promote and facilitate violence, espouse hate, and legitimize replacement theory. Findings from the investigation will be used to enhance and build on New York state's strategy for combatting hate and violent extremism.”

As part of the package, Hochul is also pushing a series of legislative measures designed to help law enforcement investigate and prevent gun-related crimes. The governor is proposing new legislation to close the "other gun" loophole by revising and widening the definition of a firearm, making more guns subject to various preexisting firearm laws.

Hochul is also working with the Legislature to pass two bills to address and streamline the investigation of gun-related crimes. The first would set forth a process to require semiautomatic pistols manufactured or delivered to licensed dealers in New York to be microstamping-enabled.

A press release said, “Microstamping is an innovative ammunition-marking technique that marks bullets and cartridge cases with a unique fingerprint each time a firearm is discharged. This allows investigators to link bullets and casings recovered at crime scenes to a specific gun and potentially other crimes. The second piece of legislation would strengthen gun reporting protocols by requiring all law enforcement agencies to report the recovery of any crime gun within 24 hours of their discovery.

“These latest measures are part of Hochul's continued commitment to addressing the gun violence epidemic. The enacted state budget includes meaningful and significant changes to public safety laws, as well as $227 million for bold initiatives that will strengthen the gun violence prevention efforts of law enforcement and community-based organizations.

“The recent spike in domestic terror attacks represents one of the most pressing threats to public safety across the United States. In the last decade, domestic terror attacks and plots have tripled nationally. In 2021, there were 73 terrorist attacks and unearthed plots in the United States, including 38 white supremacist and similarly like-minded terrorist attacks and plots.”

New York State Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin said, "We at OVS are doing everything in our power to provide support to the victims and all of those affected by the racist and senseless killing of innocent people who were simply going about their lives on Saturday. We join all New Yorkers in support of Gov. Hochul and residents of her hometown as they grieve, attempt to heal and ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. We thank Gov. Hochul for her strength and leadership through this, and for her steadfast commitment to supporting victims and reducing gun violence and hate crimes across our state."

OVS provides a safety net and can pay for expenses resulting from a crime when individuals have no other way to pay for them, including funeral and burial expenses, medical and counseling costs and other expenses, as well as assist victims and families with lost wages and loss of support.

OVS joined with Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Buffalo Police Department to establish a community resource center to provide trauma-informed support and immediate services to residents who have been impacted by the tragedy that occurred on Jefferson Avenue and the closure of Tops Friendly Markets due to the ongoing criminal investigation. The center is open to anyone who needs help during this difficult time. Services include assistance with groceries, utility payments, banking services and mental health counseling.

Division of Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Rosanna Rosado said, "The horrific mass shooting in Buffalo ripped apart the social fabric of a neighborhood, a city, a state, and a nation. The devastation, loss and trauma inflicted upon our neighbors, families and loved ones by hate-fueled extremism cannot and shall not be in vain. We must listen to the voices of those most impacted and support them as they grieve, heal, and recover from tragedy. Following Gov; Hochul's leadership, we must also act to confront hate and racism, prevent future violent extremism, and stop the illegal flow of guns into our communities. We stand with the governor to help bring an end to the gun violence epidemic."

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, "Make no mistake: Domestic terrorism driven by white supremacy and antisemitism is the preeminent threat to our homeland. This new unit within the Office of Counter Terrorism will strengthen the resources, focus and response that these threats and the poison fueling them demand."

State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, "The State Police remains focused on working with our law enforcement partners at the local, state and federal level to fight gun violence and domestic terrorism. We appreciate the support of Gov. Hochul and the Legislature to further expand those efforts. No single law enforcement agency can solve these problems; it will require a combined effort across communities and even state boundaries to make progress." 

Congressman Brian Higgins said, "The pain felt by families, workers, neighbors and the entire Buffalo community is something no other human or city should have to endure. Action is urgent and necessary. Gov. Kathy Hochul is leading the way with comprehensive measures that begin to root out loopholes and better protect New Yorkers. This week, the House of Representatives will follow suit by passing its own domestic terrorism prevention bill. Together, we must do everything possible to prevent the persistent presence of unnecessary tragedies like this."

New York State Sen. Sean Ryan said, “As the Buffalo community continues to mourn, I thank Gov. Hochul and Attorney General James for taking action today to address gun violence, confront white supremacist ideology, and investigate the social media companies that far too often fuel domestic terrorism in communities across our nation. I strongly support strengthening New York’s Red Flag Law to keep weapons out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals, and establishing new units to investigate and curb threats of domestic terrorism and radical extremism. In the wake of the tragedy in Buffalo, we know there are steps we can take to reevaluate our laws and address the gun violence and hatred that pervades our society. In the closing days of the legislative session, I strongly support the Senate and Assembly taking action to improve safety and make it easier for law enforcement to investigate gun crimes. We must meet this moment to ensure lasting change and make New York a safer place, especially for the communities of color who are often the target of hate and violence.”

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Rebecca Fischer said, "As gun violence and white supremacist-motivated shootings ravage our state and disproportionately impact Black and brown New Yorkers, we are grateful that Gov. Hochul is immediately taking action to save lives. The governor's executive orders and legislative proposals will prevent mass shootings, suicide, domestic violence, and other gun violence plaguing our communities every day. Microstamping technology and crime gun reporting will address the gun trafficking crisis by holding rogue gun dealers accountable and helping to solve crimes. We are proud to stand with Gov. Hochul today and applaud her for championing these life-saving policies to protect New Yorkers." 

Southern Poverty Law Center's Chief of Staff Lecia Brooks said, "We greatly appreciate Gov. Hochul speaking out so clearly and powerfully against hate and for her efforts to end these violent, racially motivated attacks against Black and brown communities. Like many violent extremists, the alleged attacker in Buffalo was steeped in online radical white supremacist culture made possible by the broad perpetuation of hate on social media platforms. The efforts announced today will help shine a bright light into the dark corners of the web, propelling action and preventing future horrific acts. For too long, these companies have put profits over the public good, which must end. Social media companies themselves also need to do much more to enforce their own policies and protocols removing disinformation, hateful and violent content. We stand ready to assist with this ongoing effort."

March for Our Lives Policy Director Zeenat Yahya said, "As white supremacy continues to rear its ugly and deadly head, we need urgent action from our leaders to deny white supremacy safe harbor. We've long advocated for 'No Notoriety' for killers to prevent copycat shooters. It is clear now that 'No Notoriety' will also help stop white supremacy from festering. Gov. Hochul's directive to investigate social media platforms' role will help do just that and, along with her push to close gun loopholes, is a lifesaving measure. These actions are proactive, not reactive, and we're pleased to see the governor commit to them."

Center for Court Innovation, SOS Save our Streets/RISE Project, Director Hailey Nolasco said, "As we are learning to adjust to a new normal as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is an unfortunate reality that gun violence has been exacerbated due to the many underlying issues affecting our communities, such as the effects of unprecedented unemployment, mental health challenges, and increased barriers to resources. Neighborhoods across New York and the country are overwhelmed with the hurt and trauma that accompanies gun violence. This issue requires long-term investments in public safety centered in community that are multipronged and incorporate prevention and intervention. We must address the root causes of these challenges and ensure that young people most likely to use or be harmed by a gun are connected to credible messenger programs such as SOS Save our Streets and the NYC Crisis Management System."

Community Capacity Development, Executive Director and Founder, K. Bain said, "While the needless loss of any human life is tragic, the racist aspect of this attack against the Black community in Buffalo is especially troubling. We cannot dismiss this as simply a depraved act of a deranged individual. We call upon the nation's leadership at all levels – and across political, religious, academic, business and community institutions – to immediately confront the historically rooted pattern of racially motivated, systemic violence directed particularly targeting Black, brown, Asian and Indigenous people."

Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt said, "The essence of leadership is responding to tragedies like the mass shooting in Buffalo with real solutions, not just rhetoric, and that's exactly what Gov. Hochul is doing by throwing her support behind these lifesaving policies. We already have many of the tools we need to prevent gun violence – now we need to make sure law enforcement, mental health professionals, school administrators, and everyday New Yorkers know when to take them out of the toolbox and put them to use."

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