Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mental Health Issues Put 34,500 on New York’s No-Guns List -

“Assumed dangerousness is a far cry from actual dangerousness.”
But the number of entries in the database highlights the difficulty of America’s complicated balancing act between public safety and the right to bear arms when it comes to people with mental health issues. “That seems extraordinarily high to me,” said Sam Tsemberis, a former director of New York City’s involuntary hospitalization program for homeless and dangerous people, now the chief executive of Pathways to Housing, which provides housing to the mentally ill. “Assumed dangerousness is a far cry from actual dangerousness.”

Similar laws in other states have raised the ire of gun rights proponents, who worry that people who posed no threat at all would have their rights infringed. Mental health advocates have also argued that the laws unnecessarily stigmatized people with mental illnesses.
Even if just one dangerous person had a gun taken away, “that’s a good thing,” said Brian Malte, senior national policy director of the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence. The National Rifle Association of America favors a separate “process of adjudication” to make sure that “these decisions are not being made capriciously and maliciously,” Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman, said.

John Tauriello, deputy commissioner and counsel for the state Office of Mental Health, said the figure must be evaluated in the context of the magnitude of New York’s mental health system, to which 144,000 people were admitted in 2012 for treatment in community hospitals, private psychiatric hospitals or state-operated psychiatric centers.

“It sounds really reasonable if you know the size of the system,” Mr. Tauriello said.

Mental health professionals and advocates point out, however, the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent. Accurately predicting whether someone will be violent, they said, is also a highly fraught process.

Mental Health Issues Put 34,500 on New York’s No-Guns List -

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