MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and State Senator Todd Kaminsky today announced new legislation that would criminalize threats of mass harm that are unaddressed by current state law. The bill will remedy a deficiency highlighted by the decision of the Appellate Division’s Second Department in People v. Hulsen, in which the Court found that a school employee’s alleged statement to a faculty member that she “better be absent the day they fire me because I’m going to come in here and Columbine this shit,” was legally insufficient to support a charge of Making a Terroristic Threat. The charges were dismissed, and the defendant later requested the return of the guns seized by police, which included an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, an FN Herstal PS-90 semi-automatic rifle, and a Mossberg 500A shotgun.In Hulsen, the Court noted that the crime of making a terroristic threat was enacted shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and found that evidence presented to the grand jury was insufficient to show an “intent to intimidate…a civilian population.” The proposed legislation creates new crimes of Making a Threat of Mass Harm (an A misdemeanor), and Aggravated Threat of Mass Harm (an E felony), which would close the loophole and hold those who make threats accountable for their words.
“School threats have skyrocketed since the Parkland tragedy causing lockdowns, panic, and have diverted law enforcement resources from their lifesaving work,” DA Singas said. “We need stronger laws that criminalize phony threats and protect our communities from the horrific violence that has stolen so many lives. I am grateful to Senator Kaminsky for his collaboration and leadership on this bill, and to Assemblymember Christine Pellegrino for carrying it in the Assembly.”
The District Attorney’s office drafted the legislation, which has been introduced by State Senator Todd Kaminsky (S.8262), and will be introduced by Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino in the Assembly.
State Senator Todd Kaminsky said, “Law enforcement needs every available tool to protect our schools and communities from mass shootings and other violence. The fact that someone in our state could say that he is going to ‘Columbine’ a school and yet police are nearly powerless to take action shows that our laws needs strengthening. This bill will allow law enforcement to arrest those who make threats of mass harm, and, importantly, provides them a basis to seize weapons from perpetrators of these threats.”
Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino said, “As a mother and a former teacher, a school shooting is my worst nightmare. The number of threats against our schools has dramatically increased, and we’re here to say enough is enough! Threats against the lives of students and faculty cause fear and panic throughout the community. They are not to be joked about or taken lightly. This bill will fix a glaring flaw in the current state law and ensure anyone who threatens our schools is held accountable for their actions.”
Those convicted of Making a Threat of Mass Harm would face up to a year in jail. Defendants convicted of Aggravated Threat of Mass Harm, an elevated charge for individuals who make an overt act to commit the threatened harm, such as making a plan, compiling a target list, or possessing any weapon or device, would face up to four years in prison. If passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by the Governor, the laws would take effect immediately.
 N.Y. Pen. L. § 490.20