A new database of New Yorkers deemed too mentally unstable to carry firearms has grown to 34,500 names, a figure that has raised concerns among mental health advocates that too many people have been categorized as dangerous, the New York Times reports. The database, established after the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Ct., is the result of the Safe Act. It is an expansive package of gun control measures pushed through by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The law compels licensed mental health professionals in New York to report to the authorities any patient “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.”
The number of entries in the database highlights the difficulty of the 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. “Assumed dangerousness is a far cry from actual dangerousness.” Similar laws in other states have been questioned by gun rights proponents, who worry that people who posed no threat 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 of the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence.