NY State Police demonstrate yet again their difficulty in correctly administering the SAFE ACT, first they labeled on their website a pump action shotgun as banned when it wasn’t, and now this:
Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs said the New York State Police made a mistake when they enforced a mental health provision of the New York SAFE Act. Jacobs said he was ordered in an email from State Police to contact David Lewis, 35, and notify him he had to turn over his firearms.
“On this one I’m disappointed with State Police but I will say more so I’m disappointed with the legislation that was passed,” Jacobs said.
Lewis’ attorney Jim Tresmond said his client was told to turn over several firearms because he was once prescribed anti-anxiety medication at “one point.” Tresmond said his client was told that violates part the new gun control law.
State police odered his pistol permit revoked and Lewis was forced to turn the guns over to Amherst Police. Wednesday, Jacobs told YNN’s Katie Cummings he received a call from State Police explaining that they had the wrong person.
But did they have the wrong person? That would be fairly coincidental because Lewis’s attorney states that he was in fact prescribed anti-anxiety meds for a medical condition.
That individual is David Lewis. He is a 35-year-old college librarian. His attorney says he has an anxiety-related medical issue which prompted a doctor to prescribe him medication. Lewis owned seven guns until he received a letter from Jacobs’ office. That letter told Lewis the New York State 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,” says Jacobs.
Jacobs feels the State Police are targeting his office, which he says only serves an administrative role when it comes to enforcement of the SAFE Act.
New York State Police issued a statement Wednesday saying “No guns are being taken because an individual is on anti-anxiety medication” and refused to answer our questions or do an interview.
Except the guns were taken, and according to the clerk it was because of medication listed on Lewis’s private medical records. Previous accounts claim that Lewis has no criminal record, has never been suicidal or violent.
According to Tresmond, his client is a Western New York professional with no criminal record - not even a speeding ticket - who wishes to remain anonymous. He says the man received a letter dated April 1st. telling him he must immediately surrender his seven handguns and pistol license to the Amherst Police Department.
“He was called, somebody called him and told him that his guns were going to be, that his license was going to be revoked and it was because of mental health issues which totally, totally false,” says the attorney.
The Erie County Clerk explained Tuesday that this letter is the same letter anyone told to surrender their guns would receive and is not specific for the SAFE Act, but he did see another piece of paperwork associated with this case.
“I did see the letter than came from Sgt. Sherman at State Police, and it seemed clear to me that this was using a provision within the SAFE Act, and so, the process is nearly the same as far as our role is concerned,” says Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs.
It is plausible that some other David Lewis, and to be fair it’s not exactly a rare name, who was also on anti anxiety meds made some kind of threat or said something that alarmed a mental health professional. Maybe that’s how the guy got erroneously targeted. However the specter of potential medical mixups are the reason that patient data is heavily cross referenced before any actual procedures are performed. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out, if they honestly had the wrong guy or if someone in law enforcement interpreted the law erroneously, thinking that a prescribed anti anxiety medication by itself voided a citizen’s right to bear arms.
Either way, in terms of their procedural ability to read and/or apply the law correctly the NY State Police now stand at the plate with two strikes, which isn’t exactly going to help the government in their efforts to defend it against challengers arguing the law as passed be declared void for vagueness. If the people in charge of enforcing the law can’t get it right one can’t simply assume the average citizen will understand it any better.