Fox News psychiatrist Keith Ablow erroneously claimed that recently enacted state legislation failed to address firearm access for individuals with mental health problems who have been deemed a danger to themselves or others. Ablow also fearmongered that proponents of gun violence prevention legislation would like to "disarm the whole population."
In fact, legislative packages enacted in New York and Connecticut specifically address mental health and the U.S. Senate gun violence prevention legislative package has a provision to improve records of individuals with mental health problems who have been deemed a danger to themselves or others. Furthermore, no state proposals involve disarming gun owners; instead new state-level gun laws have included bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as expanded background checks.
During the April 5 edition of America's Newsroom on Fox News, Ablow seriously mischaracterized gun violence prevention legislation when he told host Bill Hemmer that recently enacted gun violence prevention packages did not address mental health:
HEMMER: Whether it's Colorado, whether it's the push for gun laws in New York or Connecticut that we saw this week, with Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook, or the national gun push that we're seeing. Is there anything in those laws that would prevent a future [James] Holmes or Adam Lanza when it comes to mental health that you see?
ABLOW: So let me be exactly clear. Zero. Zero. Our shattered shoddy slipshod mental health care system is the thing that needs attention. The folks who are piggybacking on these tragedies and saying it's guns are simply exercising a political agenda getting nothing done.
Ablow - who heavily criticized the alleged failure of Holmes' psychiatrist to notify the proper authorities of her patient's dangerousness - is wrong.
New York's recently enacted SAFE Act of 2013 requires mental health professionals to report individuals "likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others" to their local director of community services, who will review the report for possible referral to the Division of Criminal Justice Services. The Division of Criminal Justice Services could then put in motion the suspension or revocation of the individual's firearm license. SAFE also extends outpatient mental health treatment for individuals discharged from Office of Mental Hygiene hospitals.
Legislation signed into law on April 4 by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy extends the firearm possession prohibition for individuals who have been involuntarily committed to 60 months and creates a task force "to study the provision of behavioral health services in the state with particular focus on the provision of behavioral health services for persons sixteen to twenty-five years of age." The task force, made up of mental health professionals, will make recommendations on a number of topics including, "requiring disclosure of communications by mental health professionals concerning persons who present a clear and present danger to the health or safety of themselves or other persons."
Part of the legislative package sent to the floor of the U.S. Senate seeks to improve the records stored in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the FBI administered criminal background check system for gun purchases from licensed dealers.
Under federal law, an individual who has been deemed a danger to themselves or others by a judicial proceeding or who has been involuntarily committed is prohibited from possessing a firearm. Numerous states, however, fail to report disqualifying mental health records to the NICS system. Notably, the perpetrator of a 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech should have been in the NICS system because a judge had declared him to be "an imminent danger" to himself.
A provision in the Senate package, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013, would incentivize states to submit disqualifying records by providing funding to those states that do and reducing funding to states that do not comply.