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New York considers bill to force gun buyers to undergo mental health screening

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pictured on Aug. 28, 2019 in Queens, NY. (Go Nakamura /New York Daily News/TNS)
February 11, 2020

A bill in the Democrat-controlled New York state legislature would make it a crime to purchase a firearm without undergoing a state-enforced mental health check, with the bureaucratic system defining what would be considered mentally healthy.

Sponsored by Democrat James Sanders Jr, Senate Bill S7065 would make it a felony with the possibility of up to seven years in prison for individuals who sell or purchase a firearm without undergoing the state-approved mental health evaluation.

As the text of the bill states, “Before any sale, exchange, or disposal of a firearm, rifle or shotgun at a gun show, by a federally licensed dealer or private sale, including when such sale, exchange or disposal is between immediate family members, a purchaser of any firearm, rifle or shotgun shall submit to a mental health evaluation and provide the seller with proof of his or her approval to purchase such firearm.”

Additionally, if passed into law, the bill would create a new department within the office of mental health specifically to evaluate individuals’ mental health tests, saying it would process “the mental health evaluation of any individual prior to such individual’s purchase of any firearm, rifle or shotgun.”

The appointed commissioner would also be the one to make the regulations, without providing any legal restrictions on that power: “The commissioner shall promulgate regulations which shall include, but not be limited to, provisions relating to mental health professionals approved to perform the evaluation; the process for evaluation; and the development of a standardized form to be used by mental health professionals performing such evaluation to approve or deny an individual for purchase of a firearm, rifle or shotgun.”

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If Governor Andrew Cuomo were to sign the bill into law, which is considered likely, given that he is a supporter of strict gun-control measures and both sides of the legislature are controlled by Democrats, it would be go into effect 180 days after being signed into law.

As the bill states, the justification of its passage due to some of the shootings that have taken place in the country.

“This bill will require that a mental health evaluation be conducted before an individual can purchase or obtain a gun. This bill will help to protect our citizens and prevent the death of innocent people,” according to its text.

New York is home to some of the strictest gun-control laws in the country and yet it has one of the highest rates of gun violence.

The New York SAFE Act, passed in 2013, banned “high-capacity magazines” regardless of when they were made or sold, forced ammunition dealers to perform background checks, and created an assault weapons registry.

Second Amendment supporters argue this bill is an undue burden on law-abiding citizens, especially given that nearly all of the murders using a firearm were obtained illegally.