When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer threatened Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, he forfeited his right to purchase a firearm according to New York’s red flag law, a gun rights advocated argues. Gun Owners of America (GOA) Senior Vice President Eric Pratt wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), urging the governor to demonstrate his commitment to equally applying the law by enforcing it against Schumer.
“If you are serious about the law that you signed, and if you believe that it should apply to the ruling class as well as those ruled, then will the nation soon see reports that you will be directing an appropriate official to seek a red flag order against Senator Schumer?” Pratt asked in the letter sent Friday.
On Wednesday, Schumer warned Gorsuch and Kavanaugh that “you will pay the price” if they rule that the State of Louisiana can require abortion clinics to meet certain health and safety standards in order to operate. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Chief Justice John Roberts condemned this threat, saying “threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous.” Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman claimed that the senator was merely referring “to the political price Senate Republicans will pay for putting these justices on the court,” accusing Roberts of having misinterpreted Schumer’s remarks. However, the senator directly warned Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, not Senate Republicans.
State attorneys general also condemned Schumer’s threat, and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) filed a resolution to censure the minority leader for the remarks, warning about the rising tide of political violence.
Pratt’s letter makes it clear that GOA does not support red flag laws, partially because it does not believe the laws will be applied equally against the powerful and well-connected.
“Last year, New York enacted a Red Flag law, effective August 24, 2019, which your website states ‘prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm.’ You tout this new law as one which ‘builds on New York’s strongest in the nation gun laws,'” Pratt wrote to Cuomo.
“Gun Owners of America (‘GOA’) opposed the enactment of this New York law, and opposes the enactment of such laws in other states, in part because of our anticipated selective enforcement of this law, applying it to the poor and minorities, while giving a pass to the rich, powerful and politically connected,” the GOA leader explained. “Your response to this letter will help demonstrate whether our concerns were valid.”
“Enactment of a similar law elsewhere has already led to the homicide of an African-American gentleman. A Red Flag order was served at 5:17 a.m. at the home of Gary J. Willis, age 61, of Anne Arundel County, Maryland,” Pratt explained. When the police came to confiscate Willis’ firearms, he refused to turn them over, and he was fatally shot in the altercation. “But for execution of that order, Mr. Willis would be alive today. We are now writing to determine whether YOUR Red Flag law will only be enforced against the poor, minorities, and political enemies of those in power.”
Pratt quoted the red flag law to demonstrate it applicability to Schumer’s threat.
The finding required under YOUR Red Flag law is “that there is probable cause to believe the respondent is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to himself, herself or others….” Further, in determining whether grounds exist for issuance of a red flag order, “the court shall consider any relevant factors, including … a threat … directed toward … another person.” 2019 NY CPLR section 6342.
As further evidence of the seriousness of the matter, Senator Schumer’s threats violate 40 U.S.C. section 6134 which states: “It is unlawful to … make a harangue or oration, or utter loud, threatening, or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building or grounds.” The penalty for violation of that statute is a fine or imprisonment of not more than 60 days, or both. See 40 U.S.C. section 6137(a). The American people await the action of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in enforcing that criminal statute.
“We understand that Senator Schumer is, like you, a member of the Democrat Party, and, like you, is a powerful New York politician. Moreover, he actively supported YOUR New York Red Flag law, as well as adoption of such laws elsewhere. Do these factors give him immunity for violating the law you improvidently signed?” Pratt asked.
This situation gives Cuomo a test to demonstrate his commitment to fairness. If he does not apply the red flag law against Schumer, that will confirm gun rights advocates’ fears that these laws are more intended to remove firearms from law-abiding Americans, rather than to keep them safe.
“If you do not enforce YOUR law against Senator Schumer, the American People will understand that gun laws are intended to be used selectively to suppress minorities, the politically powerless, and political opponents. Additionally, it will demonstrate that in New York there is one law for the rich and powerful, and another law for the rest of The People,” Pratt warned.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.