New York's New Gun Law Not All Bad
Although there is much to ridicule in New York’s new gun laws, some provisions actually make sense and may help to reduce shootings by people who are obviously mentally ill. The law will also prevent the outrageous and dangerous behavior of a media outlet from publishing the names and locations of legal gun owners, as was done recently, if those owners choose to remove their names from public scrutiny.
All the guns that were banned have in common some feature that conveys a military use, like a bayonet mount.
Some fear that directing mental health professionals to report certain behaviors and admissions may make mentally ill persons less likely to seek help or be honest with their therapists. This does not seem to me to be reason enough not to take these obvious steps to keep guns away from persons with mental defects.
Now I hope that the ACLU will be defeated in its attempts to sabotage those aspects of this new law. Without these mental-health provisions, this new law is just smoke and mirrors and worthless in preventing terrible incidents like Aurora or Sandy Hook, while trampling on the rights of honest citizens.
New York Has Gun Deal, With Focus on Mental Ills
January 14, 2013 NY Times
ALBANY — Gov.Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers agreed on Monday to a broad package of changes to gun laws that would expand the state’s ban on assault weapons and would include new measures to keep guns away from people with mental illnesses.
The state Senate, controlled by a coalition of Republicans and a handful of Democrats, approved the legislative package just after 11 p.m. by a lopsided vote of 43 to 18. The Assembly, where Democrats who have been strongly supportive of gun control have an overwhelming majority, planned to vote on the measure Tuesday.
Approval of the legislation would make New York the first state to act in response to the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, had pressed lawmakers to move quickly in response to Newtown, saying, “the people of this state are crying out for help.” And the Legislature proceeded 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 said at a news conference.
“Enough people have lost their lives,” he added. “Let’s act.”
The expanded ban on assault weapons would broaden the definition of such weapons, banning semiautomatic pistols and rifles with detachable magazines and one military-style feature, as well as semiautomatic shotguns with one military-style feature. New Yorkers who already own such guns could keep them but would be required to register them with the state.
“The message out there is so clear after Newtown,” said the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from Manhattan. “To basically eradicate assault weapons from our streets in New York as quickly as possible is something the people of this state want.”
In an acknowledgment that many people have suggested that part of the solution to gun violence is a better government response to mental illness, the legislation includes not only new restrictions on gun ownership, but also efforts to limit access to guns by the mentally ill.
The most significant new proposal would require mental health professionals to report to local mental health officials when they believe that patients are likely to harm themselves or others. Law enforcement would then be authorized to confiscate any firearm owned by a dangerous patient; therapists would not be sanctioned for a failure to report such patients if they acted “in good faith.”
“People who have mental health issues should not have guns,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters. “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.
The legislation would extend and expand Kendra’s Law, which empowers judges to order mentally ill patients to receive outpatient treatment.
And it would require gun owners to keep weapons inaccessible in homes where a resident has been involuntarily committed, convicted of a crime or is the subject of an order of protection.
The legislative package, which Mr. Cuomo said he believed would be “the most comprehensive package in the nation,” would ban any gun magazine that can hold over 7 rounds of ammunition — the current limit is 10 rounds. It would also require background checks of ammunition buyers and automated alerts to law enforcement of high-volume purchases.
The legislation would increase penalties for multiple crimes committed with guns, would require background checks for most private gun sales, and create a statewide gun-registration database.
Senator Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, the leader of an independent faction of Democrats who have allied with the Republicans to control the Senate, said the measure met the goals of many lawmakers.
“Republicans, it’s very clear, wanted harsher criminal penalties for illegal guns, which is something I agree with,” Mr. Klein added, “but on the other hand we’re also going to ban assault weapons and limit the number of rounds in a magazine. So I think putting those two things together makes it a better bill.”
Among the other elements of the proposed legislation were a so-called Webster provision, named for the shooting deaths of two firefighters in Webster, near Rochester, just before Christmas. The provision would mandate a life sentence without parole for anyone who murders a first responder.
And, in response to a controversy that erupted after The Journal News, a daily newspaper, published the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland Counties, the legislation would prohibit disclosure of the names in the new statewide gun-registration database, and would allow individuals to exempt their own names and addresses from being disclosed by counties that have such databases.
The guns package was negotiated privately by the governor and legislative leaders over the last several weeks, but was only completed late Monday; rank-and-file Senators had only a few minutes to read the legislation before voting on it. Mr. Cuomo, saying, “If there is an issue that fits the definition of necessity, I believe it’s gun violence,” waived the normal three-day waiting period between introduction of new legislation and a vote.
The minority leader in the Assembly, Brian M. Kolb, a Republican from Canandaigua, objected to the move to expedite the process, saying, “I don’t think we should be rushing things just for the sake of headlines.”
By the time the Senate began to discuss the bill late Monday night, the galleries that overlook the chamber were mostly empty of spectators. A parade of Democrats, who have long pressed for new gun laws, rose to praise the bill as they explained their votes.
Senator Malcolm A. Smith, an independent Democrat from Queens, said provisions of the measure could be dedicated to the family members of New Yorkers who had been victims of gun violence.
“I think today we are setting the mark for the rest of the country,” he said.
Most of the senators who voted against the bill did not speak. One who did, Senator Kathleen A. Marchione, a Republican from Saratoga County, praised some parts of the measure, like the expansion of Kendra’s Law. But she said the new restrictions on guns would not get at the problem of gun violence.
“I truly believe that the Second Amendment constitutional freedoms of every New Yorker tonight has been weakened,” she said, adding, “Law-abiding citizens who own guns are not our problem. Law-abiding citizens understand and know how to take care of their guns, not to be a danger to others.”
Labels: Gun Control