As the late Desi Arnez of TV’s beloved Lucy Show might have said, “Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his New York State Police still have some ’splaining to do.” Their first gun confiscation effort under the mental health provision in the controversial NY SAFE Act went terribly wrong, and not everyone is willing to accept the first explanation of the foul-up that led to the seizure of handguns from a 35-year-old Amherst, NY, librarian with a pistol permit.
Now there is finger point in every direction, and not everyone is willing to accept the State Police claim that it was a case of mistaken identity. Even some anti-gun Democrats who voted for the bill are demanding a thorough probe.
The State Police are claiming that the mistake occurred because the Erie County Clerk’s Office did not investigate more thoroughly when they notified the clerk’s office that the man’s license should be revoked or suspended and his gun surrendered to the Amherst Police Department.
Erie County Clerk Christopher Jacobs, who administers the state’s pistol licensing operations for the county that includes Amherst and Buffalo, said his office has no investigative authority or investigative staff. He said they follow directives of police agencies when notified that a pistol license, previously good until revoked, is to be suspended or revoked.
While many want to know who’s to blame for the mess, there are others that claim that in its haste to confiscate the guns of some licensees in the state under the mental health provisions, the governor and state police may have violated federal laws related to patient privacy. That’s still being hashed out.
The attorney for David Lewis, the gunowner who was told to surrender his pistol permit because of the SAFE Act, says his client is getting his guns back.
“I think that first and foremost, it stems from a flawed law that was passed so quickly without forethought on how something would be implemented.
Certainly, I am disappointed on the fact that we were given information from State Police that this was an individual that we needed to act immediately on,” Jacobs told WGRZ Channel 2’s Kelly Dudzik.
Lewis’s attorney said his client was told to surrender all seven handguns that he owned until he received a letter from Jacobs’ office. That letter told Lewis the Police wanted the County Clerk to suspend his pistol license right away.
“They made the mistake. They handed the mistake to us, to our local judges, and it’s really disappointing that they’re not standing up and taking responsibility here,” said Jacobs.
New York State Police issued a statement saying “No guns are being taken because an individual is on antianxiety medication” and refused to answer questions or do an interview with WGRZ.
“Are State Police trying to blame your office?” Dudzik asked Jacobs.
“Yeah, I think they’re saying that it’s myself or the Supreme Court judge who’s assigned to this that it’s our fault, but they were the ones that gave us the information. We’re not privy to any of that mental health information that they had and that’s what they acted on to send this dictate down to us,” Jacobs replied.
Jacobs showed the TV reporter an email indicating a State Police sergeant followed up at his office to make sure the guns were turned in.
“Somebody is not being exactly honest,” said James Tresmond, who represents Lewis as well as the plaintiffs in one of several suits challenging the state’s SAFE Act.
Tresmond plans on filling a lawsuit, but will not say how much he plans on suing for in federal court. He says it will be the maximum, and he doesn’t know who he will sue until he knows exactly who is to blame for suspending his client’s pistol permit.