Role Of Mental Health Professionals Becomes Flashpoint In Efforts To Curb Gun Violence

Just a day after New York passed a landmark gun control law which would require mental health workers to report to authorities patients deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, President Barack Obama is also expected to unveil his gun control agenda. The New York measure, however, is already drawing criticism from experts who worry that its reporting requirement could hinder treatment.

The Washington Post: Obama To Announce Most Expansive Gun-Control Agenda In Generations
In addition to background checks and restrictions on military-style guns and ammunition magazines, Obama is expected to propose mental health and school safety initiatives such as more federal funding for police officers in schools, according to lawmakers and interest group leaders whom White House officials briefed on the plans (Rucker, 1/15).

Los Angeles Times: New York State Adopts Toughest Gun Laws In U.S.
The Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or SAFE Act, gives New York the toughest gun laws in the nation and touches on the mental health issues that both pro-gun and anti-gun activists say should be part of any new legislation. Among its key provisions is one requiring the revocation or suspension of gun licenses held by people who are deemed a danger to society by mental health workers. The bill would require mental health workers to report such patients to authorities (Susman, 1/15).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Experts Say Proposed NY Gun Law Could Hinder Mental Health Treatment Of Dangerous People
Mental health experts say a new tougher New York state gun control law might interfere with treatment of potentially dangerous people and even discourage them from seeking help (1/15).

The Wall Street Journal: Law's Mental-Health Provision Draws Ire
The measure requires physicians, psychologists, nurses or clinical social workers to alert local health officials if a patient "is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others." After an evaluation, the health officials would pass on the person's information to law-enforcement agencies that would be authorized to seize any firearm owned by the patient. If a person is found not to own any firearms, the patient would be added to a statewide criminal background check database, marking a significant expansion of who would be made ineligible to legally buy a firearm (El-Ghobashy, 1/15).

The New York Times: Warning Signs Of Violent Acts Often Unclear
That hard fact drives the public longing for a mental health system that produces clear warning signals and can somehow stop the violence. And it is now fueling a surge in legislative activity, in Washington and New York. But these proposed changes and others like them may backfire and only reveal how broken the system is, experts said (Carey and Hartocollis, 1/15).

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