Earlier this week, reports from Fox News and the Syracuse Post-Standard revealed that New York officials had cross-referenced a state database of 38,718 individuals that have been determined dangerous by psychiatric professionals with the state’s pistol permit records. In the process, officials discovered that 278 people were on both lists. While I am sure anti-gun groups would argue we all belong on the list, the fact that less than 1% of these prohibited persons own a firearm is impressive in itself. Nonetheless, this discovery has fueled efforts by local authorities to contact the identified gun owners and potentially confiscate their firearms. While some safeguards exist to address potential abuse, many gun owners are rightfully worried that even minor or temporary psychological issues could land them on the list. New York law does require judges to sign off on any confiscation and subjects of such orders may also challenge them; however it is likely that the state’s judicial system will err on the side of the state. Furthermore, such a dispute could prove quite costly after attorney and other legal fees are considered.
Over the past few years, random acts of violence, many involving firearms, have brought mental health issues to the gun control forefront. Concerns over the effectiveness of mental healthcare in the US have been raised by gun owners and anti-gun activists alike. New York’s database is a product of these concerns. As gun owners, we must accept that this is pretty close to the kind of thing several of us were asking for. Indeed, many firearms enthusiasts have complained that the mental health system has failed to properly address some of society’s most troubled members. Now that the system is getting some use, a whole new set of worries can reasonably be expected to fill the minds of gun owners in New York and throughout the United States.
As the system stands, it appears to be quite targeted towards firearms. Those 38,718 individuals tagged by the state database are specifically called out as too dangerous to own a firearm. However, little background is available to explain what psychological issues these people are struggling with or whether the state is actually providing adequate care for these individuals. Without clear, published standards that explain who should be on this list, doctors and patients are bound to be confused. While most people might assume that severe disorders such as schizophrenia would be worthy qualifiers for listing in this prohibited database, many forms of depression or stress disorders are much less clear. The end result of this uncertainty will most assuredly be that gun owners who face minor mental health issues are likely to go untreated for fear of losing a significant piece of their freedom. All the while, little evidence has been provided that would indicate a real improvement in mental healthcare for New York residents.