Bill eases access to out-of-state data of firearms buyers

Police officers will have easier access to out-of-state records for those who try to buy a firearm in New York state.

The legislation (S.2438/A.1213) passed the state Assembly, 143-1, with both Assemblymen Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, voting in favor on the Assembly floor. The legislation requires those trying to buy guns to waive the confidentiality of their foreign home state mental illness records so that New York officials can view them.

The change is necessary, proponents said, because of a state Court of Appeals ruling in 2013 that held a person can apply for a firearm license in their county of residence regardless of the applicant’s legal home, but not all mental health records are available in foreign states. People from other states who maintain a New York residence have begun to apply for firearms licenses in New York without being subject to adequate investigation of the person’s home state record of mental illness.

Confidentiality rules prevent New York authorities from investigating the mental illness record of foreign states and lawmakers said it is unlikely that New York residents who are domiciled elsewhere, many of whom only have vacation homes and summer camps in New York, will have a mental illness record in New York. The legislation, signed earlier this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, requires an investigation of the mental illness records of a foreign state where the applicant is domiciled in a foreign state. In order to permit such an investigation, the measure requires such an applicant to execute a waiver of confidentiality in such form as may be required by their foreign home state.

While the legislation was approved overwhelmingly in the state Assembly, Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, R-New Windsor, questioned Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter, D-Syracuse, about the bill.

“This is just for those folks who are out-of-state who now will have to go through the same background check as everyone if they own property in New York state,” Hunter said.

Schmitt asked Hunter how many licenses or applications would be affected, with Hunter replying lawmakers don’t know yet. Schmitt also wanted to know if the legislation broadened scrutiny of gun purchases by current New York state residents.

“So, we are, in essence making it fair for New York residents to be able to say that someone else isn’t getting special treatment who isn’t a resident of New York?” Schmitt asked.

The legislation had been proposed in the state Assembly in the 2015, 2016 and 2018 legislative sessions and had been passed in the Assembly all three times. It failed in the Senate in each of those sessions.

COMMENTS