Mental health groups are hoping to get technical changes to New York’s controversial new gun law through the state budget negotiation process, they said Wednesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders indicated Tuesday they were discussing tweaks to the law. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said they discussed correcting an “inconsistency” in the law that allows a gun owners to hold 10 bullets in a magazine at a shooting range but only seven bullets elsewhere.
Cuomo has mentioned other possible changes to the law since he signed it Jan. 15. Police groups have expressed concern that the law doesn’t specifically exempt on-duty law-enforcement officers from the seven-bullet limit, and the film industry wants to be exempted from the law’s assault-weapons ban.
The state Medical Society and the Psychiatric Association had written to Cuomo March 1, and several groups met with the governor’s staff last week, about changes they’re seeking to the language of the mental-health provisions. The so-called NY SAFE Act requires physicians, psychologists, nurses and social workers to report a patient who is potentially dangerous.
But the language does not match the current law that governs when a treatment provider can make a report without violating doctor-patient confidentiality. The groups are concerned about over reporting, as well as civil and criminal liability, due to the language.
“We think these technical changes fall within the realm of what the leaders have indicated they’re willing to discuss,” Liz Dears, senior vice president of the Medical Society, said Wednesday.
Dears and others were headed to the Capitol to discuss the changes with lawmakers, hopeful the tweaks will be considered while Cuomo and other leaders debate the budget.
“Given the tenor of what’s been publicly discussed, we’re hopeful that these technical amendments can be done,” she said.
Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the state Association for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, said the governor’s staff quelled some of the groups’ concerns during last week’s meeting.
For example, Rosenthal worried that a report disclosing a patient’s mental illness diagnosis or details of any episodes might be available to police during a routine traffic stop. He was assured that would not be the case, he said.
“There is a lot of broad language in the law that we’ve tried to get a better understanding of,” Rosenthal said.
“We had a good conversation with the governor’s office,” he contined. “We’re hopeful that our concerns have been heard and will be incorporated into the changes.”
Read the groups’ letter for more detail on the changes they’re seeking: