Well, that didn’t take long. Mere hours after New York legislators rammed through more useless laws aimed at protecting and preventing nothing, mental health experts already are scoffing at the preening windbags in Albany.
Mental health experts say a new tougher New York state gun control law might interfere with treatment of potentially dangerous people and even discourage them from seeking help.
The law would require therapists, doctors, nurses and social workers to tell government authorities if they believe a patient is likely to harm himself or others. That could lead to revoking the patient’s gun permit and seizing any guns.
In interviews Tuesday, one expert called the new law meaningless and said he expects mental health providers to ignore it, while others said they worry about its impact on patients.
Dr. Paul Appelbaum at Columbia University said the prospect of being reported to local mental health authorities and maybe the police might discourage people from revealing thoughts of harm to a therapist, or even from seeking treatment at all.
“The people who arguably most need to be in treatment and most need to feel free to talk about these disturbing impulses, may be the ones we make least likely to do so,” said the director of law, ethics and psychiatry at Columbia. “They will either simply not come, or not report the thoughts that they have.”
“If people with suicidal or homicidal impulses avoid treatment for fear of being reported in this way, they may be more likely to act on those impulses,” he said.
Currently a mental health professional has a duty to protect potential victims of a patient, but there are several ways to do that, he said. The patient can be committed to an institution, voluntarily or not, or his medication can be changed to reduce the risk, or the intended victim can be warned, he said.
The patient’s family can be asked to lock up any guns in the house, or to keep an eye on the patient to see if he’s doing something that could bring on violence, like drinking or skipping his medications, Appelbaum said. The family could then notify the mental health professional.
This should be easily managed, no?
Dr. Steven Dubovsky, chairman of the psychiatry department at the University at Buffalo, called the new measure meaningless. “It’s pure political posturing” and a deceptive attempt to reassure the public, he said.
These laws will do nothing to prevent crime. Of course the next time a mass shooting occurs, these same people will do what they always do–call for more meaningless, ineffective laws.