This article discusses the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (“SAFE Act”), passed to protect the public from mentally ill people with guns. The act states that a mental health professional who suspects that a person with a gun is likely to pose a danger to themselves or others must report this situation to a Director of Community Services, who, if she or he agrees, must report this person to the criminal justice system. At that point, the person's license to hold a gun will be revoked, and the weapon will be seized. Critics of the act feel that it is unconstitutional and believe that it interferes with patient-therapist relationships. They also feel that people with mental illness perpetrate very few crimes involving guns and that this law unnecessarily stigmatizes people with mental illness.
The article discusses the recent history of cases related to gun ownership, including District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), in which the Supreme Court upheld an individual's right to have a gun. In McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), the Supreme Court applied this right to the states through the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause. The author also reviews long-standing prohibitions of gun ownership by mentally ill people.
The author determines that the SAFE Act is unconstitutional because, unlike other long-standing prohibitions on gun ownership by the mentally ill, the act does not require someone to be judged mentally ill or committed to a mental institution before that person's firearm is taken away. In the past, a person's weapon could only be taken away if that person was diagnosed with mental illness or sent to a mental institution. The author presents reasoning about why the SAFE Act's revocation of the right to possess a firearm in the home is likely unconstitutional. The author states that the SAFE Act is not the least restrictive means of providing for public safety and that the law stigmatizes people with mental illness. The author believes that gun rights should be revoked based on indications of people's dangerousness, not based on mental illness.