Trouble with NY SAFE Act: Mental health report

Posted at: 04/17/2013 5:26 PM | Updated at: 04/17/2013 5:31 PM
By: Berkeley Brean | WHEC.com

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Now to the latest controversy over New York's gun law. A man in Erie County got his guns taken away after he was misidentified in a mental health investigation. This has actually happened twice in New York State and now county clerks are saying it's going to happen again if the state doesn't do its job.

One of the provisions of the New York Safe Act is that if someone threatens to hurt themselves or others to their psychiatrist, the doctor has to notify the authorities. The New York State Justice Department runs the patient's name to see if someone with that name has a pistol permit and if there's a match, the state police notify the county clerk's office. The clerk pulls the record, gets it to a county judge, who revokes the permit and orders police to go get the guns.

But what if the patient's name was common and there were several with that name at roughly the same age with permits. Which one is the patient?

That's what happened to David Lewis in Erie County. He got his guns back Tuesday, but not until after they were revoked because he was misidentified with another David Lewis.

On Wednesday afternoon, Monroe County Clerk Cheryl Dinolfo was joined by the clerks of Wayne and Livingston County to say the problem is that the state police are sending them notifications that leave it up to the clerks to investigate whether they've got the right person.

Cheryl Dinolfo, Monroe County Clerk, said, “So what's the consequence of that? Not only do we have two people that were misidentified and unfairly misidentified as being the subject of a 9.46 report. We have the real potential and possibility that there is someone, potentially, in fact, who may be in a situation where he or she needs some help.”

The clerks say they're not equipped to be investigators. There have been a handful of these reports to Monroe and the surrounding counties. There has not been a misidentification here.

State police released a statement saying, “We are working with local officials across the state to ensure that they have the information they need. Together we can administer the law in the most effective and efficient way possible to minimize any disruption for the public and  burden on local government officials, and by doing so, protect New Yorkers by keeping guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill.”

If you have questions about the SAFE Act and gun permits, the county clerk's website is a good place to go.

 

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