278 gun owners flagged as mental risks and could lose their firearms

NY-SAFE-ACT

Although the SAFE Act passed and signed by the Governor, many counties in the state did not want their name associated with it. (Photo credit: NYSenate.gov)

Some 278 licensed gun owners in New York could lose their firearms after being deemed mentally unstable by health professionals who reported them to the state.

Under a provision of New York’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act — the gun control law that went into effect early last year in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting — some 38,718 patients were identified as at-risk and posed a threat to themselves or others, according to a Freedom of Information Law request filed by the The Post-Standard seeking county-by-county statistics from the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services. The county breakdown can be found here.

Gun owners on the list could be ignorant of the fact, because health providers are not required to get their consent before making a report and flagging them at-risk.

“It would seem common sense to me that if a person truly was at risk, we wouldn’t want them to know that they had been reported, so that they didn’t do anything rash,” said Alex Wilson, associate council for the New York State Sheriffs’ Association.

There are also provisions in the SAFE Act that make such a breech in doctor-patient confidentiality legal, Wilson told Guns.com.

The NYSSA posted its response, laying out the provisions it supports and those it doesn’t on its website.

The sheriffs’ group agrees with parts of the SAFE Act, Wilson said, but the law has its flaws.

“Sheriffs are of one mind that appropriate people should have access to firearms if they choose to obtain one, and that inappropriate persons should not have access to firearms. In that respect, the SAFE Act was an imperfect attempt to achieve that goal,” Wilson said.  

The information that came to light about at-risk individuals has limitations on the number of firearms confiscated or permits suspended because local courts and local licensing officials aren’t required to tell the state what actions they took, said Janine Kava with the Division of Criminal Justice.

In the Post-Standard’s reporting, it did list that some guns were confiscated, but it’s unclear how widespread the practice is. And just because a judge revokes a gun owner’s permit, it doesn’t mean their gun will be confiscated. The firearm could be co-registered with a relative, county clerk Elizabeth Larkin, told the Post-Standard.   

Larkin, whose office processes gun permits for Cortland County, said that four permit holders were flagged by the new database, which only reported one occurrence.