Moments after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned New York’s strict process for issuing firearm permits Thursday, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill into law pushing schools to consider using a silent alarm system that can be triggered when they enter active shooter situations.
The legislation – known as Alyssa’s Law – requires school districts around the state to consider installing silent panic alarms in school buildings that directly alert law enforcement officials when there’s an active shooter on school grounds. The law was named after Alyssa Alhadeff, who was killed at the age of 14 during the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida.
While Hochul strongly encouraged schools to adopt silent alarms, she said the law isn’t a mandate.
“I’m proud to sign Alyssa’s Law to protect the children who sit in the classroom so innocent, trying to get an education, trying to make friends,” Hochul said. “It’s not a mandate, but I stand by here today and ask all school districts to adopt this. Please, please consider this technology to protect your students and your staff and your administrators, it will save lives.”
Joining Hochul at the bill signing were its sponsors state Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick (D – Rockland County) and Assembly Member Ken Zebrowski (D – Rockland County), as well as Assembly Member Michael Benedetto (D – Bronx), United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and Alyssa’s parents, Lori and Ilan Alhadeff.
“On February 14 2018, as the horrific shooting was happening, I texted Alyssa, I told her to run and hide that help was on the way,” Lori Alhadeff said. “That help didn’t arrive in time to save our daughter Alyssa who was shot eight times. Alyssa and her memory is at the heart of this law. And the students and teachers in the state of New York will now benefit from your support of this legislation.”
The signing of Alyssa’s law comes on the heels of two shooting massacres last month, one at a Buffalo supermarket and the other inside the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX that claimed the lives of 31 people combined.
It also follows Hochul signing a package of other gun control legislation earlier this month that raised the age for purchasing an assault weapon from 18 to 21, required microstamping of ammunition sold in the state and strengthened New York’s already existing Red Flag Law.
Hochul said this could include the installation of traditional panic alarm systems below a desk, but the law calls for considering the use of wireless alarms that can be activated through a smartphone app. The app bipasses 911 and goes driectly to law enforcement, Hochul added, which could speed up the police response when an active shooter is working their way through a school building and every moment matters.
“You bypass 911. You go right to law enforcement,” Hochul said. “An app can show that there is an active shooter in a school to draw attention that second, so no time is lost. Because as we saw in Uvalde and Parkland, police response time is imperative to saving lives. So teachers and staff will be able to discreetly alert law enforcement as well as other teachers and staff in the building.”
Reichlin-Melnick said signing Alyssa’s Law will be worth it if its implementation saves even one life and strongly encouraged school districts around the state to install panic buttons.
“I began my career as an elementary school teacher and so gun violence in schools is something that I take incredibly personally,” he said. “And thinking of what the Alhadeff family has had to go through, it breaks your heart. No family in Florida, no family in New York, no family, anywhere in our country should have to go through what this family has gone through. And what so many other families in Florida, in Sandy Hook, in Uvalde and all of these other places around the country have gone through. And so if we can save one life through this law, it will be worth it.”