Paterson wants stronger gun laws

May 19, 2008 4:27:57 PM PDT
Governor David Paterson introduced legislation Monday that would allow the state to tell the FBI if a New Yorker trying to buy a gun has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.The proposal would disqualify those applicants from getting a gun, but federal law would require states to create a way for people to apply to remove their name from the registry.

The legislation is a reaction to the Virginia Tech tragedy last year, when a mentally ill student shot 32 people dead, then killed himself.

"It's important to try to continue to stem the violence associated with guns, and this hasn't really been on many people's radar screens this session," said Michael Balboni, the state's deputy secretary for public safety. "The governor thinks it's high time this is on our radar screen."

The Democrat-led state Assembly passed a similar measure last month and issued a statement Monday urging the Senate to act on several other gun safety bills the Assembly has already approved.

Senate Republicans declined comment except to say they will look at the bill, but haven't seen it yet.

Involuntary commitments for mental health care would be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which federally licensed firearms dealers have to check before selling a handgun.

Federal laws requiring reporting to the index were strengthened last year in Congress, but New York can't submit private health information until state legislation is updated.

Paterson's proposal would also require state and local law enforcement agencies to give state police certain crime scene ballistic evidence related to a homicide, an attempted homicide or a conspiracy to commit a homicide.

Investigators could then compare that evidence with the state's Combined Ballistic Identification System database for links to other crimes.