May 18, 2022
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Announces Support for Comprehensive Package to Combat Rise in Domestic Terrorism, Strengthen State Gun Laws and Crack Down on Social Media Platforms that Promote Extremist Acts of Violence

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Announces Support for Comprehensive Package to Combat Rise in Domestic Terrorism, Strengthen State Gun Laws and Crack Down on Social Media Platforms that Promote Extremist Acts of Violence

Governor Hochul: "The truth is the most serious threat we face as a nation is from within...The mainstreaming of hate speech, of racism, nationalism, white supremacy, and the easy access to military-style weapons and magazines. We can no longer look away and we're not just going to call it out. We need to directly address the deadly threat that it is."

Earlier today, Governor 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. More information is available here.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today for several announcements. But before we start, I want to recognize some of the individuals who've joined us here today. I want to thank two individuals who've been true leaders in our Assembly and our Senate championing smart gun safety laws, public safety.

And I want to thank Senator Brad Hoylman, Senator Brian Kavanagh for their leadership. Let's give them a round of applause.

We have two other leaders and we'll be talking about a bill of theirs today. Two other leaders who couldn't join us because they're up in the legislature, that's Amy Paulin from the Assembly, as well as Linda Rosenthal, two other champions who've been with us on this fight for a long time, but we're talking about some of their bills as well.

Reverend Al Sharpton, I want to thank you for your leadership with the National Action Network, but also the call you gave to me on Saturday that said, "Tell the people of Buffalo that the National Action Network will cover the costs of their funerals." It kind of hit me hard, you know, that realization, we're going to have to have funerals.

Because we're all still in shock, but thank you for having the sensitivity to understand that these people are not people of great means. It's a neighborhood, a hardworking family-oriented neighborhood, but that just took a lot of stress out of their lives. And I want to thank you for that.

I also want to thank Commissioner of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Jackie Bray who's been embedded in this from the beginning. She's been extraordinary in her leadership and helping us analyze what happened in our response. So Commissioner Jackie Bray.

Our Commissioner of the Department of Criminal Justice Services Rossana Rosado, former Secretary of State. We're so proud of her in that role as a real champion for doing what's right.

And having our Superintendent of the State Police Kevin Bruen, I want to thank him, as well as two people who have become good friends of mine. Linda Beigel Schulman and Michael Schulman, who go to too many events where we talk about the loss of life.

We also have a representative from our gun safety organization.

Let me just open this up here.

I want to thank all of them for being here. You'll be hearing from Rebecca in a couple of minutes.

I'm going to get through this, but I wanted to show you something that was given to me. And this was created by a woman refugee from Burma. It was made in Buffalo and it says Buffalove. I mentioned this when I was with President Biden yesterday, I said, "There's a word we made up in Buffalo, combining Buffalo and love." And it was, so I wanted to just share that I'm going to keep this close to me as we get through these difficult days.

We're here to talk about a crisis, but before we start, we have to have a moment of silence. We have to reflect on the beautiful lives that were lost, but also the other countless individuals, who've also lost their lives to gun violence because every life matters regardless of how it was taken away from us. So let's have a moment of silence.

Thank you. The past few days have been among the most difficult in my life. The hearts of every single New Yorker are literally broken in two, especially Buffalonians, one half grieving for these families that are still bewildered. With President Biden, I had a chance to hold a three year old whose father was in the store, buying a cake for his birthday that day. He asked me, "Where's my daddy?" I didn't have an answer.

I also met the wife of the security guard, a former police officer, who was there because her husband, by his bravery saved a life of a mother and a 14-year-old by putting himself on top of them. I saw the reunion of that widow and the two lives that were spared because of her husband.

Those are just two examples of all the pain and the sorrow. I spoke about that half of the broken heart that is grieving. But the other half of that heart is filled with anger right now. You can't witness what happens to a community like this, what happens to an 11-year-old in the Bronx and not feel angry, otherwise you're not really human.

And in the case of Buffalo, I want to be very clear about what happened. It was a case of an 18-year-old male who was radicalized and I'm not going to sugarcoat this because there's no way to do that who was radicalized by white supremacists and white nationalist beliefs.

And he was so taken by these toxic messages, these racist philosophies that are so easily accessible on social media platforms or the genesis of which really have been talked about on cable news networks. He was so taken with us that he got in his car after surveillance and visiting the site in the past and drove three hours with one goal. And that was to execute Black New Yorkers. That's his state of detente. It was his state, he wrote that. That was his intention. So this is white supremacy in this nation at its worst. It's infecting our society. It's infecting our nation and now it's taken members of our family away. And we have to continue to ask the question, how many more lives need to be needlessly taken from us before we face the truth?

And the truth is the most serious threat we face as a nation is from within. It's not from the Russians. Not from people elsewhere. It's white supremacism, it's white nationalism, and it's time we confronted it head on. In the last decades, domestic terror attacks and plots have more than tripled in a decade from about 20 in 2021, I'm sorry, in 2011, to over 73 in the last year alone. But the hate has not just affected our society and how people think. It's literally been weaponized because you can't act on the evil thoughts that have possessed your mind and the hatred that fills your heart if you don't have access to a weapon. That's the intersection of two crises right now that are unfolding in our country.

The mainstreaming of hate speech, of racism, nationalism, white supremacy, and the easy access to military-style weapons and magazines. We can no longer look away and we're not just going to call it out. We need to directly address the deadly threat that it is. And we are. Today I'm signing an Executive Order to establish a unit within the Office of Counter-Terrorism at the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, focusing exclusively on domestic terrorism. First time ever. They'll develop the best practices for law enforcement, for mental health professionals, for school officials to address the rise in homegrown extremism. And we'll make sure that they're trained to know how it occurs, where it occurs, and how to stop it.

And to most directly affect us at the local level, we're going to launch a Threat Assessment Management Program, and this is going to have multi-disciplinary teams in our counties across the state, and they'll identify, assess, and be prepared to deal with the threats. This coordination is critical, it does not exist now. It does not exist, that these stakeholders need to be communicating and sharing information. So, guess what, they can start to connect the dots. And that's what we did after 9/11. And that's what we're going to do now. Start connecting the dots. Who heard what, who saw something? And then you get the law enforcement, and the mental health professionals, in some cases, school professionals, actually communicating about what they're seeing. We have a much better opportunity to be in the prevention business, instead of just the cleanup business.

That's how we need to evolve too, that's how we prevent these crimes from occurring in the first place. I'm now requiring every county in the State of New York and the City of New York to perform a comprehensive review of current strategies and policies and procedures for identifying domestic terror threats. And upon completion, they will develop a plan for confronting the racially and ethnically motivated threats and extremism, and they'll be submitted to our Office of Counter Terrorism by the end of the year. We'll work with them. We'll work closely with them.

And this Executive Order will also establish a dedicated domestic terrorism unit within our New York State Intelligence Center, focusing on monitoring social media, because everyone's saying, "How did this happen? This information was out there. The footprint, the fingerprint was out there." We are going to ramp up these efforts intensely at our intelligence center. Because there's a feeding frenzy going on in social media that hate just breeds more hate, and think about all the people who saw the livestream of the slaughter, the massacre of innocent people in a grocery store, in a Tops store on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, New York.

They witnessed this in real time, and individuals are using these platforms and the suspect wanted people to see this. He created an opportunity for people to see this and share what he was doing, and his manifesto. So they create platforms so they can share their demented ideas with each other in the hopes that this continues to spread, the virus spreads. And they find others who share their worldview, radicalizing more. And that is a direct threat to New Yorkers. Call it what it is, but then have a plan to deal with it. So we're going to ensure that we have the best-in-the-nation cybersecurity teams to monitor the places where radicalization occurs. We're watching you now, we know what you're up to. And we'll be coming after you.

But that's only part of the problem. They often find each other because there's algorithms that are out there that elevate hateful incendiary speech. Can you believe that? There's algorithms in place that ramp up and share this even more, with higher frequency than other messages. So this incendiary content is pushed out to more people in 2022. That's how radicalization is occurring, through the social media echo chamber. And that's why there are 10 fewer people in Buffalo, New York today. These social media platforms have to take responsibility. They must be more vigilant in monitoring the content, and they must be held accountable for favoring engagement over public safety.

So today, I'm announcing a referral to the Attorney General's office to investigate the social media platforms that broadcast this horrific attack, that promote and elevate hate speech, and legitimize the replacement theory in the mind of an 18-year-old, a radicalized 18-year-old. I've already spoken to the Attorney General. In fact, she was there with me, with President Biden in Buffalo yesterday, and I thank her for her deep concern and willingness to step up and to take this on. She'll report her findings back to me, and I'll respond as necessary based on those conclusions. Because as I said, domestic terrorism is the most significant threat we face as a state and as a nation.

So we're fighting back with a statewide approach, but that's not all. Because, as I mentioned, this intersection where the hateful, evil thoughts in the mind of an 18-year-old can be acted on because of access to guns, and massacre people because of the color of their skin, that means something's fundamentally broken.

People are wondering how you had the right to acquire the weapon in the first place when you are this individual. We have red flag laws in place to prevent exactly this situation. Red flag? What does that mean? You're waving a red flag, it means "Look here, warning, warning. Danger." And I traveled the State of New York with many of our partners, the advocates who are out there every single day. Everytown, Moms Demand Action, we traveled everywhere. We've been all over the state, talking about the red flag bill. We were so proud when that was passed as an act, and I thank the leadership for working on that, but guess what? They need to be strengthened now. We found a way they need to be made better.

So today, I'll be signing an executive order requiring the State Police to file an extreme-risk order of protection under New York's Red Flag Law when they believe that an individual is a threat to himself, herself or others. Previously, current law, it's an option to do so. And now, it'll be a requirement. And we will provide law enforcement, the guidance they need, the criteria to follow. And we believe that together, these steps are necessary to confront the stem of rising hatred, white supremacism in our state. And we have other ideas. You may have known this, we had actually planned this press conference, prior to the Buffalo massacre. Because we knew that there are areas where our laws need to be bolstered. We're proud of having tough gun laws, no doubt about it. But as time goes on, you start to see the loopholes, because the criminals are very, very clever.

So, we had to ban ghost guns. Who would've thought there could be such a thing as a ghost gun? That you could order the parts online and manufacture a lethal weapon in your home? We banned them from the State of New York. So, I'm going to continue working over the next few days, because we're coming down to the wire here with the end of session, I want to work closely with the legislature because they have a thoughtful approach to this as well. They are my partners and I'm going to do that, but I know that there's more we can do. We need to further the red flag law. The Executive Order will deal with the State Police. Working with the legislature, I believe that we can strengthen it at the local level as well. And I offer my hand in partnership to do just that.

We're also going to be looking at the role social media platforms play in the incitement of violence. And how that speech, hate speech, is amplified by the algorithms I just mentioned. But in the meantime, the gun violence epidemic, it's overtaken, it's overwhelming our nation. And that came to Buffalo, but it happens everywhere. And we're almost becoming desensitized to the stories, because, "It's another day. Another nine-year-old shot, an 11-year-old killed." We can't let that happen. We can't let that happen. The reality is, there's more guns in this country than there are people. It's too easy for radicalized individuals to go out and acquire these weapons of war.

We're not at war. This is not Afghanistan. I've been to Afghanistan, I've seen military style weapons. I've been on the battlefield. I've seen the use in a military setting. This is the United States of America. It's not a battlefield. It shouldn't be a battlefield. And in this great country, weapons designed for battlefields should not be used to execute people shopping for groceries, or a birthday cake.

Yes, we've called upon Washington for a nationwide response. Our advocates know this. Reverend Al knows this. Everybody knows this. It's been a long, long time. But yes, we have the toughest gun laws in our nation, but guess what? The gun the individual purchased in our state was legal.

But what happened was, is that you can go literally across the border to Pennsylvania and buy a magazine with 30 bullets in it. And that's what happened. You can get the base gun here legally in the State of New York, go buy a high capacity magazine, and just attach it.

That's what happened.

So, we have to deal with this. And we will, we will. We have announced there is a package of gun laws that we're going to be proposing. We have more guns to deal with.

But I want you to know something else that you'll find is shocking. There is another loophole, it's called the AOW. Have you heard of this? It stands for "any other weapon" and you're going to be shocked when you see the type of gun that can legally be bought in the state of New York today. Because there's a new category of weapons where the characteristics put them in this gray space between rifles and shotguns and pistols.

And they're specifically designed to fall outside the realm of regulation. So they're not subject to our laws. That is how they are created. That is why they exist. Superintendent, would you please show us what an "any other weapon" looks like.

Does anybody think this is a gun? Our laws don't. A law­ a gun to be regulated. Our laws don't regulate this.

They will now.

Thank you, Superintendent.

It's concealable they're high powered, and they can be modified to have a high capacity magazine.

And currently that's legal. You can go online right now and see manufacturers and sellers describing it as something called a completely legal sawed-off. We ban sawed-off gunshot gun weapons, but this says it's completely legal. Not anymore. We are introducing legislation that revises the definition of a firearm to include those weapons, which means we'll be able to charge and prosecute people accordingly.

This is just one of those enormous loopholes that you can drive a truck through, similar to what we have with ghost guns.

There's another bill and I want to thank Senator Hoylman and Linda Rosenthal — that requires all semi-automatic pistols sold in New York to be microstamped. What does that mean? This is the type of bullet that was used to kill 10 people in Buffalo on Saturday afternoon. Okay. What we don't have is a way to give each of these bullets a unique fingerprint each time the firearm is discharged. It's called microstamping when you do that. What does that do? If you have the weapon outfitted to give a unique mark on this, when it's discharged, it allows police to trace the bullets and casings that are left behind and link them back to the gun that fired them to help us identify who used the gun and if that gun was used in another crime. That's just common sense. We can do that here in the State of New York, we'll work with our legislature to get that done. Another bill, Amy Paulin, Senator Kavanagh, thank you. This requires all New York law enforcement agencies to report the recovery of any crime gun to the State Police Clearinghouse within 24 hours.

Why 24 hours? According to the manifesto, the perpetrator of the slaughter in Buffalo had planned to go elsewhere in Buffalo. I was in the neighborhood that he was talking about coming down to, and those people were shaken by that too. So we want, the second a gun is recovered, the information to be there, entered into the National Crime Information Center system immediately.

And you're probably just as shocked as the rest of us to think that that's not already happening. Thank you, Senator Kavanagh, for bringing this to our attention, and what'll happen is the results of a test fire will go the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network and determine if it's been used in past crimes.

That's how we start catching the perpetrators of the guns that are killing our kids on the streets. It'll go a long way toward our gun tracing efforts to make them more efficient and impactful, and it'll help the Gun Interdiction Task Force that I launched in January to help build on their progress.

They have identified so many guns that have come through, not just the iron pipeline, but we have nine states. No other state has done this. I took the lead to make sure we have nine states and the Buffalo, the Boston PD, as well as the NYPD working with us to make sure that they are attacking this where it's happening.

But we're also going to do one more thing and that's including the permitting and background checks related to specific guns. And I'm going to­ — we have our plans. I want to work with the legislature on this too. Let's get this done. Let's get this done. I just spoke to the leadership. I know there's a strong interest in being smart about this.

So, we have more people I want you to hear from. This is just a start, what we're doing here, but right now communities are in mourning and I hope to God that this is the wake-up call that this country has needed because we've had other crises. We lost children and a son in Parkland. We lost children in Sandy Hook. We lost people in white supremacist, targeted attacks in Charleston, Pittsburgh, El Paso. And I sure didn't want my hometown of Buffalo to ever be on that list, but let that be the city that's known as a place where people said, okay, enough is enough and they did something, we're doing something, we're doing something right now.

That is my promise to New Yorkers.

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