Gun control supporters scoff when Second Amendment defenders accuse them of advocating the confiscation of firearms. The pro-restrictions crowd claims that our elected officials aren’t really trying to do what the gun-control set would actually love them to do.
Well, it’s happening. New York state is ground zero for gun grabbing, validating the worries of gun owners everywhere.
After the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, New York lawmakers passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act. The SAFE Act, proudly described by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the toughest gun control law in the country, banned assault weapons and created a list of the mentally ill whose guns could be seized because someone suspected they might be “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.”
The SAFE Act compels county officials to screen and forward names provided by health care workers to the state, but neither county nor state officials have much (if any) direct contact with those patients. And county workers, who can’t keep up with the submissions, have simply rubber-stamped them. The result? Virtually no oversight and a database of 34,500 New Yorkers deemed too mentally unstable to own a gun — a number some mental health professionals consider way too high.
The public wouldn’t even know how big the list was if The New York Times hadn’t pressed the issue. The very proud (and very evasive) Cuomo administration initially refused to release data on the program in response to the newspaper’s public records requests. The administration only released information about the act — and limited information, at that — after the Times appealed the denials this month.
Why is this overreach and lack of oversight such a big deal? Consider the case of David Lewis.
Back in April, Mr. Lewis, a 35-year-old Amherst resident, was ordered to surrender his weapons to police because he had once been prescribed anti-anxiety medication, which a health care worker considered reportable under the provisions of the SAFE Act. A week later, a state judge ruled Mr. Lewis’ guns had to be returned to him after state police admitted a mistake had been made.
Mr. Lewis’ ordeal illustrates the injustice inherent in the law’s application. Not only are the Second and 14th Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens being trampled — taking property without due process — but the law further stigmatizes the mentally ill and mental health treatment. Not all mentally ill people are dangerous, and those who would benefit from treatment might think twice if doing so would require them to forfeit their constitutional right to bear arms.
How many other people have had their guns seized, rightly or wrongly? We don’t know. As reported by HotAir.com’s Jazz Shaw, New York governments, which keep detailed statistics of every crime imaginable, aren’t keeping records on how many firearms are taken from New Yorkers under the SAFE Act. How convenient.
How crazy are some measures? The town of Watervliet, N.Y., asks pistol permit applicants for their social media passwords. For what reason, exactly? Background investigations, according to Time Warner Cable News. Apparently, the First Amendment doesn’t carry much weight in New York, either.
Governments must do more to identify and help the seriously mentally ill. But the job of determining whether someone is too dangerous to own a weapon belongs to a judge, not a single health care worker, police officer or county bureaucrat.
Second Amendment advocates aren’t lunatics for fearing government confiscation of their weapons. Their fears are perfectly justified. And they must be vigilant, in Nevada and elsewhere, in protecting their rights.