Mr. Cuomo had pressed lawmakers to act quickly in response to Newtown, saying, “the people of this state are crying out for help.” And the Legislature acted with unusual haste: Monday was the first full day of this year’s legislative session.“We don’t need another tragedy to point out the problems in the system,” Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said at a news conference just before 9 p.m. “Enough people have lost their lives,” he added. “Let’s act.”
There is much in this law that could end up being a nightmare. Responsible gun owners who suddenly find themselves in possession of “assault weapons” under the expanded definition will have to register them with the state. I’m not familiar with New York’s gun laws but one would presume they were already tracking sales. This just seems like a Big Brother steroid boost.
The bill’s approach to dealing with the mentally ill could, um, backfire in a big way.
The most significant new proposal would require mental health professionals to report to local mental health officials when they believe that a patient is likely to harm themselves or others. Law enforcement would then be authorized to confiscate any firearm owned by the patient; therapists would not be sanctioned for a failure to report dangerous patients if they acted “in good faith.”
“People who have mental health issues should not have guns,” Mr. Cuomo said. “They could hurt themselves, they could hurt other people.”
But such a requirement “represents a major change in the presumption of confidentiality that has been inherent in mental health treatment,” said Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, the director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, who said the Legislature should hold hearings on possible consequences of the proposal.
“The prospect of being reported to the local authorities, even if they do not have weapons, may be enough to discourage patients with suicidal or homicidal thoughts from seeking treatment or from being honest about their impulses,” he said.