BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The NY SAFE Act requires mental health professionals to report the names of potentially dangerous patients to authorities. But some are concerned the new law threatens the rights of the mentally ill, who advocates argue could be stereotyped.
State Assemblymen heard from mental health professionals on Wednesday, who are concerned that some troubled people will avoid seeking help or fully disclosing their concerns out of fear their names will be placed on lists reviewed by people other than their therapists.
Kenneth Houseknecht of the Erie County Mental Health Association said, "Most violence is not committed by people with a mental illness. We categorically reject the criminalization and psychiatric profiling of people with mental illnesses. The use of registry data must not extend, and cannot be shared, beyond gun-related purposes."
The SAFE act could have a chilling effect on men and women returning home from war. Those suffering from delayed stress might be reluctant to get help, says Sheriff Tim Howard.
"Talk to some young military people and see what are they being told by their peers. "If you're having a problem dealing with any post traumatic stress, do not tell this to your supervisors and do not seek help if you ever want to own a gun again,"" Sheriff Howard said.
The seriously mentally ill are involved in about four percent of violent crimes, according to the experts. But lawmakers also heard from a gun range owner who said society must be protected against unstable individuals who would seek to harm others.
Niagara Gun Range owner Dennis Deasy said, "Today, everybody is afraid of labeling somebody. It's not politically correct. Some people should be locked up. They're a danger to themselves, and they're a danger to the general public."
One of the major critics of the SAFE Act, Assemblyman David DiPietro of East Aurora, says the new law is too vague when it comes to defining mental illness and was rushed through "in the dead of night."
Most agreed hearings like Wednesday's should have been held before new gun laws were passed.
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