Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial new assault weapons ban, which was pushed through the New York legislature this week with lightning speed, is sparking anger and outrage among the state’s gun rights activists and mental health experts.
Second Amendment supporters say the new “SAFE Act of 201’’ will do nothing to stop criminals from purchasing all the guns and ammunition they need for mass shootings.
And mental health experts say the new laws could potentially hinder their patients from getting proper treatment.
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a possible Democratic Presidential candidate in 2016, signed the measure into law less than an hour after it won final passage in the Legislature on Tuesday.
"The only life that may have been helped by this bill is the political life of Andrew Cuomo on the national stage." Said Greg Ball, a Republican state senator from Putnam County north of New York City.
"It will not be effective. It's simple logic. Criminals do not obey laws," Budd Schroeder, Chairman of the SCOPE, the Shooter’s Committee on Political Education, told Buffalo’s WKBW Radio.
“It's not the gun that's the problem . . . it's the criminals.’’
Gun advocates point out that while the new law bans ammunition magazines that hold more than seven rounds, there is no provision that stops someone from buying as many clips as they want.
“A 30-round magazine is no more dangerous than two 15-round magazines, or more dangerous than three 10-round magazines …’’ Manhattan lawyer and gun advocate Jerold Levine told the New York Post.
“It takes only two seconds to change the magazine in a semiautomatic gun.’’
In addition, while some types of rifles are prohibited, others with equal power can still be sold. For example, one Benelli MR1 rifle is now illegal, but another with the same strength is legal because it has a different grip handle.
Columnist Bob McManus, writing in the Post, pointed out “the new law focuses heavily on rifles . . . never mind that rifles were used in all of five murders in New York state in 2011; fists killed 28.”
"People are upset, they're outraged,," said Bob Lonsberry a talk radio host on WHAM in Rochester, N.Y., noting that every handgun license now must be renewed every five years.
“You could've had one for 40 years and been a law-abiding citizen and now you have to renew it,” Lonsberry told listeners.
New York’s new law also requires doctors, nurses and therapists to notify police if their patients threaten to hurt themselves or others, which could lead to their guns being seized or gun permits being revoked.
But mental health officials worry patients might now think twice before unloading all of their concerns in therapy sessions or could decide to seek help at all.
“I think it’s really important that somebody who is seeing a mental health professional feels like confidentiality is being respected," Amnon Shoenfeld, director of Seattle’s King County Mental Health, Chemical Abuse and Dependence Services told King5.com.
“If they feel like ‘If I say something wrong’ police are going come to their door they might be a lot less likely to talk about things."
Family therapist Theresa McMorris told Syracuse’s 9wsyr.com:
"We're throwing a whole bunch of people in a cattle car and saying well, what if? No. That’s not the answer. The answer is more services, get people out there, make it available.
“Let us do our job. Don't handcuff and make us responsible for what other people choose to do. That's not fair.’’
“I understand the intent, but I fear these kinds of practices may well deter people from seeking care,’’ Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services told the Wall Street Journal.
In an editorial, the New York Times said the mandate for health-care professionals to disclose certain information “would seem to raise significant legal questions.
“It is not clear who has the final authority to order the seizure, or at what point in the process the gun owner can appeal. The concept would also threaten established norms about doctor-patient relationships.’’
The Times added that the bill “was muscled through with disturbing speed after days of secret negotiations and a late-night vote Monday by state senators who had barely read the complicated measure before passing it.’’
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Supporters have hailed it as a model for the nation, while gun-rights activists condemn it as a knee-jerk piece of legislation that won't make anyone safer.
Owners of previously legal semiautomatic rifles, like the Bushmaster model used to kill 20 children and six seven adults in Newtown, Conn., can keep their weapons, but will have a year to register them with police.
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