WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – There is a lack of guidance on what needs to be reported to gun licensing agents in regard to people who suffer from mental illness, Dr. Grant Mitchell, commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health, said during a meeting of the Community Services Committee.
The committee wanted to assess the county’s mental health services in regard to gun licensing laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. that left 20 children and six adults dead.
“Individuals suffering from mental illness who pose risks to themselves and others need to be identified and denied gun licensing privileges to help ensure the safety of our residents,” said County Legislator Alfreda Williams (D–Greenburgh), chair of the Community Services Committee.
The County contracts not-for-profit agencies and organizations to provide mental health services, since it closed its four mental health clinics in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Mount Kisco and Peekskill in 2011 to cut costs. The county previously served about 1,600 people in its four locations.
Mitchell said he didn’t know whether those agencies and organizations reported information to gun licensing agents, as required by state law during a meeting of the County Board of Legislators Community Services Committee. Additionally, he testified that he didn’t know how much information a licensing agent needs, or how much is appropriate to issue a license to someone suffering from past or present mental illness.
New York State licensing laws relating to firearms asks that “records of the appropriate office of the department of mental hygiene concerning previous or present mental illness of the applicant shall be available for inspection by the investigating officer of the police authority.”
“At this point, we should make sure that our mental health service providers fully understand what their reporting responsibilities are in accordance to gun licensing laws, and that they are carrying out these responsibilities as best as possible,” Williams said in a statement.
Mitchell said he would look to answer those questions for the committee as soon as possible.