New York State Safe Act
|The NY SAFE Act (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act) passed the New York State legislature on January 15, 2013 and was signed into law. The Act added Section 9.46 to the Mental Hygiene Law. The act specifically aims to prevent gun violence by creating a mandatory reporting requirement for all mental health professionals who find themselves in situations where a patient may harm him or herself or others. This new law imposes an additional duty on mental health professionals as mandated reporters.
How the SAFE ACT Affects SUNY
Amendment to the Mental Hygiene Law
State University of New York campuses offer health and counseling services to students. Recent changes in the law merit guidance on the responsibilities of all campus mental health professionals. Current State Law imposes several legal duties on mental health professionals. All mental health professionals currently treating students for a mental health condition have a duty to warn and, in some cases, take action when a student is reasonably believed to be a threat to him or herself or others.
New Mental Health Reporting Requirement
The SAFE Act specifically aims to prevent gun violence by creating a mandatory reporting requirement for all mental health professionals who find themselves in situations where a patient may harm him or herself or others. This new law imposes an additional duty on mental health professionals as mandated reporters. For purposes of this amendment, a mental health professional includes any physician, psychologist, registered nurse, or licensed clinical social worker who is currently treating a patient for a mental health condition. The focus is on whether or not a patient is being treated for a mental health related condition. For example, a general practitioner treating a patient for depression would be considered a mandated reporter. A report is warranted when a mental health professional reasonably believes that a patient may harm him or herself or others. A patient’s perceived ownership of, or access to, a weapon is irrelevant. All campuses should ensure coordination in reporting to avoid inaccurate, duplicated, or missed reports. Mandated reporters should have a discussion with the campus Director of Counseling (or equivalent position) regarding whether or not a report is warranted.
When making a report:
- All mental health professionals should make a timely report to those designated within the treatment team. The designee will then report to the County Director of Community Services (DCS), who will then make a report to the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). More information about your DCS can be obtained by contacting the county in which your campus is located.
- The report must be limited to the students’ name and identifying information. No clinical information or treatment records should be disclosed to DCJS.
- Mandated reporters should remember that their duty to report does not extend to situations where that report may further endanger themselves or others.
- Each mandated reporter has his or her own reporting obligation. If there are conflicting opinions within the treatment team, no mandated reporter is prohibited from submitting a report directly. Furthermore, in instances where a student is also being seen externally, a campus mandated reporter still has an obligation to report if necessary.
After a report is made, DCJS will determine if the student has a weapons permit. Local law enforcement will be contacted to aid in the removal of all weapons from the student’s possession. Further guidance is still needed from DCJS on several issues and, as guidance is forthcoming, we will provide it to you. Questions about this guidance may be addressed to your campus counsel.
Applicable Laws and Regulations
New York State SAFE Act (Secure Ammunitions and Firearms Enforcement), Enacted January 14, 2013
References to Supplemental Materials and Best Practices
SUNY Powerpoint Presentation on the Safe Act, February 2013
SUNY Campus Safety Conference: Balancing Safety & Support on Campus - Materials
Wednesday, February 27th in Liverpool, NY
The Office of University Life and Enrollment sponsored the University-wide safety symposium: Balancing Safety and Support on Campus. Over 150 campus personnel attended sessions. The focus was to review legal mandates related to Title IX and the SAFE Act. There was also a best practices session on campus behavioral intervention teams. The session topics along with materials distributed are available via the link above.
The information contained on the SUNY Compliance website is for general campus guidance only and is not intended, nor can be relied upon, as legal advice or the imposition on SUNY campuses of specific policies or requirements. The site is intended to be an informational-only clearinghouse for some of the laws, rules, and regulations that may impact the State University of New York’s campuses. Additionally, given the rapid, changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, there may be delays or omissions contained on this site which therefore cannot be relied upon as complete. For complete compliance information, consult your campus compliance officials or the SUNY Compliance Administrator. For legal advice, consult your lawyer.
New York State Safe Act Frequently Asked Questions Webpage
The FAQ, on the New York Rising webpage, is intended to help gun owners in New York understand and comply with the NY SAFE Act enacted on January 15, 2013. If your question is not answered here, the State advises to continue to check back, as the list will be updated regularly.
New York State Office of Mental Health Webinar on the Safe Act, coming up March 12th, 2013 at 2:00
NY SAFE ACT: New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013
A resource for clinicians on the NY SAFE Act and Section 9.46 of the Mental Health Law. This page will be updated continuously to provide answers to commonly asked questions, guidance documents, explanatory videos and an avenue by which to ask questions and receive clarification of the new reporting requirements.
Key Provisions of the New York Safe Act (according to NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo's Press Release, "Governor Cuomo Signs Groundbreaking Legislation That Will Give New York State the Toughest Protections Against Gun Violence in the Nation"
Mental Health Alert: Under the legislation, mental health professionals will be required to report to local mental health officials when there is reason to believe a patient is likely to engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to themselves or others. This information will then be crosschecked against the new comprehensive, and regularly updated, gun registration database. If the patient possesses a gun, the license will be suspended and law enforcement will be authorized to remove the person's firearm.
- Tougher assault weapons ban: The legislation outlines a stricter definition of assault weapons, and implements an immediate ban of defined assault weapons. Under the stricter definitions, semi-automatic pistols and rifles with detachable magazines and one military style feature will be considered assault weapons. Semi-automatic shotguns with one military style feature will also be considered assault weapons. Assault weapons possessed before the effective date must be registered within a year and recertified every five years. Owners of grandfathered assault weapons may only sell out of state or through an in state federal firearms licensee. Under the legislation, the Bushmaster used in the Newtown, Connecticut shooting will be illegal.
- Stronger regulations on ammunition:Under the legislation, New York will have the strongest ban on high capacity magazines in the country, with a limit on capacity of seven rounds, down from the current limit of ten. The legislation includes a ban on possession of pre-1994 high capacity magazines, and will require owners to sell the banned magazines out of state within one year. Existing ten round magazines can be grandfathered in, but may only be loaded with 7 rounds.
- To track high-volume ammunition purchasers, the legislation will make New York the first state in the nation to track ammo purchases in real time. All dealers in ammunition must be registered with the State Police, and each sale will require both a state background check and transmission of a record of the sale to State Police, so as to enable alerts of high volume purchases. Ammunition records will be purged within a year of submission. Dealers must report any loss of inventory. The legislation will also include a ban on direct internet sales of ammunition. Ammunition ordered over the internet must be delivered in a face-to-face transaction with a firearms dealer and the purchaser will be subject to the state background check. The Aurora shooter reportedly amassed 6000 rounds through direct online purchases.
- Statewide recertification of handguns and assault weapons: The legislation will require individuals who have a handgun license or have registered an assault weapon in New York State to recertify every five years through their county of residence. With this more accurate information, the state will establish an electronic gun permit database that may be run against other databases containing the names of people who will be disqualified from possessing firearms, including those with criminal convictions, involuntary commitments, and those subject to orders of protection, as well as death records.
- Universal Background Checks – closing the private sales loophole: The legislation will require all gun transfers between private parties, except immediate family, to be conducted through a federal firearms licensee, subject to a subject to a federal National Instant Criminal Background Check.
- Webster Provision: Under the legislation, murder of a first responder who is engaged in his or her duties will become a Class A-1 felony, with a mandatory penalty of life in prison without parole. This provision was created to honor the memory of Lt. Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka who were victims of a fatal shooting in Webster, New York, on December 24, 2012.
- Extending and Strengthening Kendra’s Law: Kendra’s law will be extended for two years – through 2017 – and the period of mandatory outpatient treatment will be extended from 6 months to one year. In addition a review will be required before a mentally ill inmate is released.
- Protecting Families: When a judge issues an order of protection and finds a substantial risk that the individual subjected to the order will use a gun against the person protected by the order, the judge is required to the surrender of the weapon.
- Safe Storage: To better ensure that guns are kept inaccessible to those who are barred from possessing them, the legislation requires safe storage of firearms in households where individuals live who have been convicted of a crime, involuntarily committed, or are subject to an order of protection. Existing state law already requires that all guns sold at retail in the state be sold with a gun lock.
- Keeps Guns Out of Schools: Under the legislation, the penalty for possession of a firearm on school grounds or a school bus will be increased from a misdemeanor to a Class E Felony. The state's SAVE Act (Safe Schools Against Violence in Education) requires school districts to develop school safety plans including evacuation, dismissal, community response, and alerting family, law enforcement and other schools in the area in the event of a violent incident or other emergency. The legislation will allow school districts to submit their school safety plans to a newly created New York State School Safety Improvement Team, consisting of representatives from state agencies with relevant expertise (e.g. DHSES, State Police, DCJS), which will review plans and assist localities in developing plans. Some designated safety system improvements will be eligible for enhanced re-imbursement under the state’s School Building Aid formula. New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Yonkers and Syracuse will be exempted.
- Tougher penalties for illegal gun use:The legislation establishes tougher penalties for those who use illegal guns as well as measures to help combat gang violence. Tougher penalties under the legislation include:
- Possession of an unloaded gun will be raised from a misdemeanor to a Class E felony.
- Recklessly injuring a child by a firearm will become a Class D felony.
- The purchase of a gun for someone the buyer knows to be disqualified because of a conviction of a crime, an involuntary commitment or other disqualifier, will be raised to a Class D felony from a misdemeanor. This also raised to a class D felony the sale or transfer of a firearm to an individual known to be prohibited from possessing a gun.
- Tougher penalties to permit more effective gang prosecutions, allowing a prosecutor to ask for 25 to life (previously was just 15 years) for an entire group when a gang is involved in murder.
- Using or carrying a firearm during drug trafficking or a violent felony will include a 5 year mandatory minimum sentence if the gun is loaded and a 3½ year mandatory minimum if unloaded. (The Court could impose a lower sentence in drug trafficking cases depending on mitigating factors).
- Sharing a gun with an individual who is not authorized to possess a gun and commits a crime will constitute criminal facilitation.