On Monday, the federal Department of Veterans Affairs told New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to take his new gun law and shove it where the sun don’t shine.
To clarify, Gov. Cuomo’s NY SAFE Act requires mental health professionals to turn over to the government the names of patients that may be at risk of hurting themselves or others, so that bureaucrats can then decide whether that individual’s Second Amendment rights should be terminated and his/her guns confiscated.
Okay, to be honest, the VA didn’t literally say, ‘Shove it!’ But they did adamantly say that they would not comply with the bogus mandate because it further stigmatizes an already taboo subject, i.e. counseling and therapy, which would only discourage more Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological issues from seeking out mental health treatment.
“Federal laws safeguarding the confidentiality of veterans’ treatment records do not authorize VA mental-health professionals to comply with this New York State law,” VA Sokesman Mark Ballesteros said in a statement.
“Under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal laws take precedence over conflicting state and local laws.”
To build on that, Paul Rieckhoff who founded the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America told the Associated Press that the reporting mandate would definitely have a chilling effect on those seeking or continuing treatment.
“We’re already struggling to get folks to come out and get help,” Rieckhoff, an Iraq vet, told the AP, while citing just a 52 percent utilization rate at the VA.
This position was echoed by Derek Coy, a former Marine who was diagnosed with PTSD in 2009 after serving in Iraq.
“I never had feelings to harm anyone else. I have had suicidal ideations,” he said. “I own guns. I like to hunt. … This will deter people from being honest and open.”
Gov. Cuomo attempted to shrug off the complaint from the VA and suggested that it’s really up to the mental health professions to decide whether they want to report the information; that therapists and psychologists wouldn’t be in violation of the law if they failed to submit the names.
“The law says it’s totally up to the health provider if they come forward or not; it’s totally up to them,” Cuomo said at a press conference on Monday.
But that’s not what the law says. It states, albeit very clearly:
Not withstanding any other law to the contrary, when a mental health professional currently providing treatment services to a person determines, in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment, that such person is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others, he or she shall be required to report, as soon as practicable, to the director of community services, or the director’s designee, who shall report to the division of criminal justice services.
It’s painfully evident to any reasonable person why this law is problematic for not only the VA but all physicians, psychologists, clinical social workers, counselors, etc. Probably the best explanation comes from Psychiatrist Dinah Miller, who in an article in Psychology Today said the following.
This law annihilates psychiatrist-patient confidentiality in the most egregious of ways: by inserting the government into a situation where a violent act has not yet have even occurred — it mandates government intrusions into our fantasies, and it sets a precedent to end the confidentiality that is necessary to allow for psychiatric treatment.
Indeed. Putting the government in between a patient and a mental health professional undermines any level of trust that might be established during counseling. And without trust and confidentiality any therapy session is dead in the water. No one’s going to bear his/her soul to a stranger knowing that that stranger is required to report to the government, which may in turn deprive one of his fundamental right of self-defense (For more on this, click here).
The other important point that Miller brings up is that there are already laws in place that allow mental health professionals to hospitalize a patient who is “imminently dangerous.” Therefore, the oversight of big brother is not only detrimental to getting more people in therapy, it’s also completely unnecessary.
Though, in all honesty, should gun owners be surprised by this reporting mandate?
Considering the source, it’s not all that shocking. Remember, this isn’t the first problem New York’s had with the SAFE Act. Recall that Cuomo forgot to exempt law enforcement from the retroactive ban on standard capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds (see video below):