New York flags 278 gun owners as mentally unstable

New York State’s tough new SAFE Act gun control law has flagged 278 gun owners who could lose their weapons because they have been deemed mentally unstable, a new report shows.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged lawmakers to pass the SAFE Act quickly after the 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

The Syracuse Post-Standard reported last week that since the law’s enactment, the state has collected 38,718 names in a database of individuals who have been found at-risk for owning guns by psychiatrists and other health professionals.

The paper said when the database was checked against a list of pistol permit holders in the state, there were 278 matches, less than 1 percent.

Monroe County had the most matches at 36, followed by Westchester, 17, Suffolk, 16 and Dutchess, 14.

The paper said it obtained the county-by-county breakdown from the state in response to a public records law request.

The paper reported that the state does not tally how many individuals in the database have had their permits suspended and guns confiscated. The names in the database are confidential. Judges have to sign off on the suspensions and confiscations, and someone who faces the loss of their permit and weapons can challenge the order.

Cortland County Clerk Elizabeth Larkin told the Post-Standard the police confiscated the guns from a least one permit holder whose name was in the database.

“We had another man who came in and voluntarily handed us his permit and gave his weapons to the police and said, ‘I don’t want them anymore,’” Larkin said.

The size of the database troubles some mental health providers and patient advocates.

“It’s bigger than I thought,” Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilition Services in Albany, told the Post-Standard. “It sends a message to those who might need care that there are a lot of people who are going to be in a database.”

Gun control advocates say the number of names in the database is small compared to the size of the state’s population, which is 20 million.

“It only takes one individual to wreak mayhem and tragedy if they have access to a firearm,” Leah Gunn Barrett, of the group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said. “These are individuals who, under no circumstances, should have guns.”