Mental health facilities would be required to gather and provide information on how to seek protection orders for people who are discharged or put on conditional release under a bill given final approval by lawmakers on Tuesday.
The measure is meant to bolster New York's "Red Flag" law, a provision approved in 2019 that is meant to bar people deemed too dangrous from owning or possessing a firearm.
“Providing information on an extreme risk protection order when a patient with a mental health diagnosis is released from a care facility may save countless lives in the years to come,” Sen. Peter Harckham said. “This is a common-sense safeguard, and it may give patients, family members and authorized representatives of the patient deserved peace of mind. In certain circumstances invoking the Red Flag Law is a step that should not be overlooked.”
The current law allows for extreme risk protection orders to be placed on people who are found to be a threat to themselves or others, barring them from buying or owning any kind of firearm. Similar measures have been approved in a handful of other states in an effort to curtail mass shootings or domestic incidents.
But lawmakers want to strengthen the existing measure, and point to a Westchester County case in which Treva Foss Thoms died by suicide soon after the law was put in place. The woman, discharged from a mental health facility, was able to purchase a gun.
“I assumed that there was no way that my wife, given that she had just been released from a mental services facility where she resided for several months, would have the ability to purchase a gun,” said Jason Thoms, Treva's husband. “If I had known about the existence of the Red Flag Law and the ability to obtain an extreme risk protection order, I would have secured one for my wife, and she might still be here with us today.”
The measure was part of a broader package of gun control measures approved in the final days of the legislative session and now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk.
"It’s essential that patients and their families are made aware of the options available to ensure the safety of others and loved ones," said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin.