NY Gov. Cuomo Says 100,000 on Mental Health List Can’t Buy Guns, Calls for Federal Database

August 9, 2019 Updated: August 9, 2019

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that he wants to create a database that would list everyone with a mental illness.

Cuomo listed the database as one of four things he wants the federal government to do in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, suggesting all Democratic presidential candidates should pledge to do the same.

“I’m asking all Democrats, Democrats who want to run for president and coming to the State of New York: just make it a simple, clear choice for the American people—the ‘Make America Safer Pledge,’” Cuomo said in a video posted on Twitter this week.

“Four elements: an assault weapon ban and high capacity magazines, universal background check, mental health database, Red Flag laws. Those four elements of gun control will change this nation.”

Cuomo said during a radio interview that New York has already banned “assault weapons” and “high-capacity magazines” and passed a law that put into place universal background checks and a mental health database. [18:30, delete after edit]

“Just to put it into perspective: we now have 100,000 seriously mentally ill people on the mental health database that could have bought a gun in New York … who can’t now buy a gun because we have a mental health database,” he said.

“I am not anti-gun, I own a gun, hunting is a great tradition, passing on a gun to a child is a great tradition,” Cuomo later said before saying “assault weapons” are not necessary.

Cuomo said that Democratic candidates won’t get votes from New Yorkers unless they take his pledge.

“There’s no legitimate gun owner who’s come to me in six years [since the law passed] and said: ‘you infringed on my right,'” Cuomo claimed. “Seriously mentally ill people can’t buy guns and former felons don’t have guns and that’s why you need background checks to see who’s buying the guns.”

The main sign for the Rikers Island jail in the Queens borough of New York on June 11, 2014. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to announce his $130 million, four-year plan to overhaul how the nation’s most populous city deals with mentally ill and drug-addicted suspects, diverting many to treatment instead of jail. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
The main sign for the Rikers Island jail in the Queens borough of New York in a file photograph. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The database proposal has been gaining steam, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemingly putting forth a similar proposal on Friday.

According to the Heritage Foundation, federal law already bars some mentally ill people from purchasing guns.

“The principal source of federal regulation of firearms in relation to mental illness is the Gun Control Act of 1968, which prohibits the possession of firearms by any individual ‘adjudicated as a mental defective’ or who has been ‘committed to a mental institution,'” it said.

“Federal law defines the term ‘adjudicated as a mental defective’ to mean: ‘A determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease is a danger to himself or others; or lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.’ This includes a finding of insanity by a court in a criminal case, as well as equivalent findings under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

The law has downsides, the foundation said: “Individuals who have lost their right to purchase or possess a firearm through a federal criminal conviction or determination of a disqualifying mental defect have no way of getting those rights restored.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is among the groups and people who argue that most people with mental illness aren’t violent and stigmatizing them could be harmful.

“Creating new federal or state gun laws based on mental illness could have the effect of creating more barriers to people being willing to seek treatment and help when they need it most,” the group states on its website. “Solutions to gun violence associated with mental illness lie in improving access to treatment, not in preventing people from seeking treatment in the first place.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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