Frequent Fox News guest Lars Larson made the spurious claims that a recently enacted New York gun law forces siblings to run background checks on each other when transferring weapons and would allow a mental health professional to report patients who they "don't trust" to prohibit them from purchasing a gun.
In fact, the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (SAFE) expands background checks to private firearm sales but exempts immediate family members from performing checks. The legislation also requires mental health professionals to report individuals "likely to engage in conduct that could seriously harm the patient him/herself or others" to the authorities so that the patient's information can be crosschecked with gun ownership databases. It does not, however, prohibit individuals from owning a firearm because of a mental health provider's vague suspicions.
Larson made incorrect statements about the SAFE Act on the March 22 edition of America Live on Fox News:
Larson falsely claimed that SAFE would give mental health professionals the ability to report patients that they simply "don't trust" and suggested that the legislation could be broadened prohibit gun ownership for veterans with "mild PTSD."
While the SAFE Act does create a new reporting requirement for mental health professionals, Larson greatly exaggerated its scope. The legislative memo that accompanied SAFE explained that the law creates a reporting requirement for patients likely to harm themselves or others and extends outpatient mental health treatment for individuals discharged from Office of Mental Hygiene hospitals:
A new Section 9.46 of the Mental Hygiene Law will require mental health professionals, in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment, to report if an individual they are treating is likely to engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to him- or herself or others.
The bill extends Kendra's Law through 2017 and amends the law by: extending the duration of the initial assisted out-patient treatment order from 6 months to one year; requiring a review before the assisted out-patient treatment order for a mentally ill inmate is terminated; requiring an assisted out-patient treatment order to follow a person from one county to another if he or she changes residence; and will require the Office of Mental Hygiene (OMH) to conduct an assisted out-patient treatment assessment when a state prisoner is being discharged to the community from an OHM hospital.
Larson's statement to guest host Alisyn Camerota that, "If you wanted to sell a pistol that you owned in New York state, if you lived in New York state Alisyn, to your brother, should you have to drag your brother down to a gun store and insist that he go through a background check? I don't think you should have to do that," also misrepresents the SAFE Act. According to the SAFE Act FAQ for private sales, "Sales or transfers to and between spouses, domestic partners, children and step-children, are exempt from the private sale/transfer provision."
Larson further claimed that criminal checks for private sales are not "necessary" and are "an intrusion," while falsely claiming that "background checks do not appear to be doing much good" and adding, "there has been no showing that private sales have been the source of most of the guns used by criminals."
Contrary to Larson's claim that background checks are ineffective, the national background check system used for gun sales, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System along with state background check systems have stopped 2.1 million gun sales to prohibited individuals between1994, when checks began, and 2010.
Furthermore, research has shown that a high proportion of guns used to commit crimes are obtained through private transactions where a background check may not be required. According to a 2004 study, only 11 percent of inmates incarcerated for gun crimes said they got the weapon from a licensed dealer. While 9.9 percent of firearms were reportedly obtained through theft, 78.7 of guns were obtained from venues where a background check may not be required. New York's expansion of background checks in the SAFE Act to almost all private sales aims to address this problem.