Guns

Take Xanax, Lose Your Guns?

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The SAFE Act, the gun control law hastily passed by the New York legislature in January, included a provision requiring physicians, psychologists, registered nurses, and licensed clinical social workers to report any patient they deem "likely to engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to self or others." The report goes to a county mental health official, who, assuming he agrees with the clinician's assessment, passes it on to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), which determines whether the patient holds a firearms license. If he does have such a license, which is required to legally buy a handgun in New York, the DCJS must notify the local licensing official, who must suspend or revoke the patient's license and instruct him to surrender all of his firearms, including rifles and shotguns. If he fails to do so, police are authorized to seize them.

Which is how David Lewis, a 35-year-old Amherst librarian, was stripped of his guns and his Second Amendment rights. Except that state police now say it was all a big misunderstanding, and Lewis is expected to get his guns back. The precise cause of this mistake is hazy. Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs, the local licensing official, says he got bad information from the state police. "Today we all look like fools," he told WIVB, the CBS affiliate in Buffalo. "They did not do their due diligence; they did not appropriately and fully investigate this to make sure it was the right person."

That makes it sound like a case of mistaken identity. But according to Jacobs, state police said Lewis could not be trusted with guns because he was taking anti-anxiety medication. Lewis' lawyer, Jim Tresmond, says his client did in fact receive a prescription for such a drug. Yesterday the state police issued a statement saying "no guns are being taken because an individual is on anti-anxiety medication" and declined to comment further on the case. But the state police should not have known anything about Lewis unless a doctor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker who was treating him reported him to a county mental health official, who agreed he was dangerous and passed the information on to the DCJS. Even then, neither the DCJS nor the state police should have known details such as the condition for which Lewis was being treated or the drug he was taking. The law says "information transmitted to the Division of Criminal Justice Services shall be limited to names and other non-clinical identifying information." But once the DCJS received a report on Lewis, the law left no room for discretion. Under the SAFE Act, suspension or revocation of Lewis' firearms license and surrender or seizure of his guns were mandatory. So if someone screwed up, it looks like it was the clinician whom Lewis made the mistake of trusting and the county mental health official who rubber-stamped the clinician's determination that Lewis was reportable.

According to the New York State Office of Mental Health, any patient who meets the legal standard for reporting under the SAFE Act also meets the legal standard for "emergency removal to a psychiatric hospital for an examination." That did not happen to Lewis, which suggests the law was misapplied (or that clinicians are not reading it the same way the Office of Mental Health does). But legislators are also to blame, because they created incentives to err on the side of taking away someone's guns. As Jacobs observes, Lewis' experience "stems from a flawed law that was passed so quickly without forethought on how something would be implemented."

The SAFE Act requires mental health professionals to report patients they think are likely to harm themselves or others; the only exception is when a clinician believes that reporting the patient will itself endanger the clinician or someone else. The law immunizes the clinician from civil or criminal liability as long as he reports the patient "reasonably and in good faith." In these circumstances, the fear of failing to report a patient who later shoots someone is apt to encourage overreporting. Likewise, the county health official has little incentive to second-guess the clinician's judgment; if his main concern is covering his ass, he will be inclined to pass all such reports on to the DCJS—just in case. Once DCJS gets a report, the loss of Second Amendment rights is automatic. So although the state police insist that "no guns are being taken because an individual is on anti-anxiety medication," that is exactly what seems to have happened in this case. What message does this send to troubled people, including those who might actually be prone to violence, about the merits of seeking help from a mental health professional? 

"If you try to read the legislation on the mental health provision and how this is supposed to work, it doesn't look like it's going to work on paper, and now we know it really doesn't work," Jacobs says. "And as a result, in this case, we had somebody who was, I think, probably embarrassed. Name was dragged out in public; they were deprived of their property and their rights here." Tresmond, who plans to file a civil rights lawsuit on Lewis' behalf once he figures out exactly what went wrong, adds: "Due process should come before the suspension. That's where due process comes in. Before your rights are taken, due process must occur. That's our constitutional right, not the reverse."

[Thanks to Laura Struble for the tip.]

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  1. “the only exception is when a clinician believes that reporting the patient will itself endanger the clinician or someone else.”

    So the doctor doesn’t have to report you as long as you threaten him. Got it.

    1. Incentives, how do they fucking work?

  2. It’s lovely that the package is in Hungarian. Like the market scene in Blade Runner.

  3. This is brilliant. We all thought that we had made huge gains in the drug war after Colorado and Washington. Then Sandy Hook comes along and gives the statists a brilliant idea. Let’s heavily enforce background checks against non-violent felons, especially drug felons! Bad-dah-bing, now we can ramp up enforcement in order to bust drug users for gun violations. Game. Drug Warriors.

  4. PVC PIpe, desiccant and CLP. Secret gun storage will be the next big thing. Cash in now

    1. PVC – check
      Desiccant – check
      What is this CLP of which you speak??

      1. a cleaning and lubricating oil for firearms.

        1. It “Cleans, Lubricates, and Protects” or some such.

          1. From tests I’ve seen, it’s actually one of the better easily available lubricants. There are several that are better, but they cost too damn much and you have to get them over the internet.

      2. The whole picture, including “obama tubes”:
        http://www.65grendel.com/forum…..derground.

        1. It’s been said that when it’s time to bury your guns, it’s already time to have dug them up again.

  5. The law immunizes the clinician from civil or criminal liability as long as he reports the patient “reasonably and in good faith.” In these circumstances, the fear of failing to report a patient who later shoots someone is apt to encourage overreporting. Likewise, the county health official has little incentive to second-guess the clinician’s judgment; if his main concern is covering his ass, he will be inclined to pass all such reports on to the DCJS?just in case. Once DCJS gets a report, the loss of Second Amendment rights is automatic.

    Feature, not bug. The goal here was to give the state cover to confiscate as many guns as possible. And if anyone objects, “We’re only taking guns away from crazy people who are a danger to themselves or others.”

    They probably didn’t count on one of the first people to have their guns taken to be someone who was simply prescribed anti-anxiety medication and wasn’t really dangerous. They probably assumed that kind of SNAFU either wouldn’t happen until several years later, after people had accepted the notion of “crazy people” losing their 2A rights, or that it wouldn’t be reported. Either way, fuck NY, and fuck Andrew Cuomo. In a just world that shithead wouldn’t be able to get elected dog catcher.

    1. Why do you hate dogs, Loki?

      1. I don’t hate dogs, quite the contrary. I’m assuming that as incompetant and lazy as Andrew Cuomo is he would probably just shoot the dogs instead of going through all the hastle to try and catch them. But then again I guess that’s what cops are for.

  6. My wife got a 30 day prescription one time when we were being sued last year(it all worked out btw). I bet that’d be enough for them to take mine assuming they ever passed anything nationally. We’re in Texas so my Beretta is safe… for now.

  7. So if someone screwed up, it looks like it was the clinician whom Lewis made the mistake of trusting and the county mental health official who rubber-stamped the clinician’s determination that Lewis was reportable. … But legislators are also to blame, because they created incentives to err on the side of taking away someone’s guns. As Jacobs observes, Lewis’ experience “stems from a flawed law that was passed so quickly without forethought on how something would be implemented.”

    So, no guns for all *those* folks! Right?

  8. Why would they want to discourage people with psychological problems from seeking professional help?

    I wonder if the New York State Psychological Association is for this or against it.

    1. Hmm, interesting. Why do you ask?

      /New York State Psychological Association

      1. I looked it up.

        I couldn’t find anything on their website, and they have a section devoted to precisely this kind of thing:

        http://www.nyspa.org/index.php…..Itemid=524

    2. It is sad to think that the only heeded resistance to this sort of blatant thuggery might come from big pharma and the AMA, but I have to think doctors are not wild about being put in this situation nor does Phizer want people to be scared to request their products.

      1. Then again, so far all weve got from them on this is crickets… This is some depressing shit.

  9. How about the 16 republicans pushing for the gun registry bill today?

    1. If they are smart – and this is Republicans we are talking about – they are pushing to get debate and a vote to hang on the Dems for ’14. For Dems voting against, they aggravate the progtard base into running someone that can’t possibly win a Red state – so for the Repubs, it is win-win.

  10. “a provision requiring physicians, psychologists, registered nurses, and licensed clinical social workers to report any patient they deem “likely to engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to self or others.”

    In California, they’re required to lock you up for 72 hours if you’re deemed to be a a danger to yourself or others.

    I’d guess it’s the cross referencing with the police and them checking to see if you have any registered firearms that’s new.

    Why would they want to do things to discourage people from registering their guns? Why would they want to do things to discourage people with psychological problems from seeking professional help?

    This is another one of those things that wouldn’t have stopped Lanza, either, right?

    1. “This is another one of those things that wouldn’t have stopped Lanza, either, right?”

      But Ken, its just common sense!

      1. But Ken, its just common sense!

        The common sense bug has infected the republicans as well.

        My senator, in an attempt to sell out his constituents to michael bloomberg, said that the his sponsored legislation isn’t anti-2nd it’s just common sense.

        Sending Mr. Toomey nasty emails has become quite the hobby lately. Fucking turncoat motherfucker.

    2. In California, the 72 hours is a maximum, and no one is required to lock you up for that period of time, it is just to provide enough time to get an evaluation and initiate treatment.

      Further, in California, if you are placed on that 72-hour hold (known as a 5150), it does not affect your RKBA. Only if you are kept in a psychiatric facility after the 72-hour hold is up, and you have had a probable cause hearing with legal assistance representing you in front of a hearing officer or judge, can you be reported to the state. Then you can lose your RKBA for five years, but you can appeal.

      1. Which is why they want to “normalize” all these 50-state, myriad regulations into one common sense federal guideline.

      2. I worked in a lock down mental hospital in LA for years.

        Point was that New York isn’t the only state to do that–and even if they are, that’s not necessarily a bad or un-libertarian thing to do.

        Cross referencing people who get depressed after their girlfriend dumps them to send the cops after them to confiscate their guns, however, that’s a brand new, probably very un-libertarian thing to do.

  11. And this shit, folks, is why I don’t trust psychiatrists.

    If they’re not helping the CIA, they’re fucking your rights over.

    1. If a patient is paranoid, I’m not sure sending the cops to search their home in the middle of the night is necessarily the option that’s most likely to promote the least amount of violence.

      It sounds like a great way for the cops to search homes maybe they wouldn’t get a warrant for otherwise.

  12. Ot: ABC doesn’t know how constitutional amendments work.

    A total of 27 constitutional amendments have been approved by the Supreme Court. The Move to Amend coalition, made up of organizations and individuals opposed to Citizens United, was one such group that proposed an amendment in February.

    Yep.

    1. And UC Berkeley students don’t know how the SCOTUS works, either, apparently. Not that I’m surprised.

    2. And this shit, folks, is why I don’t trust ABC News.

      Everybody knows it’s the *President* who approves the amendments.

      1. Approves them? After he proposes them!

  13. Time to ban legislatures.

  14. Wait until the generation of Ritalin junkies comes of age and finds out they can’t buy guns because of their mental illnesses.

  15. “Today we all look like fools,”

    Not fools; totalitarians.

  16. Under the SAFE Act, suspension or revocation of Lewis’ firearms license and surrender or seizure of his guns were mandatory. So if someone screwed up, it looks like it was the clinician whom Lewis made the mistake of trusting and the county mental health official who rubber-stamped the clinician’s determination that Lewis was reportable.

    But don’t worry, these new laws will have no unforeseen or unintended consequences whatsoever.

  17. Never, never tell the government you have any guns. You may need to use them against the government, or they may perceive that you might want to.

  18. “Due process should come before the suspension. That’s where due process comes in. Before your rights are taken, due process must occur. That’s our constitutional right, not the reverse.”

    But due process will dilute the raw emotional gratification of collective punishment and summary judgement.

  19. So if I understand you correctly, gun owners in New York will stop taking their Xanax or pursuing treatment for panic disorder?

    I’m okay with this.

  20. “Today we all look like fools,” no buddy….not just today.

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