Bob Barr

Despite two decisions, in 2008 and 2010, by the U.S. Supreme Court unequivocally affirming that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms against infringement by the government, state legislatures continue to do just that – enact laws that significantly infringe this fundamental human right. This effort has accelerated since the Sandy Hook school shooting by a crazed gunman last December. Not surprisingly, New York led the way.

Within a month following the tragic mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the New York legislature passed the “Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013.” The SAFE Act was hailed as one of the “toughest” gun control laws in the nation by the Empire State’s left-wing Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The legislation’s provisions require forced registration of so-called “assault weapons” and recertification (that is, “government approval”) at least every five years for eligibility to legally own any firearm. The new law also places new obligations on mental health providers to report to government officials those gun-owning citizens who present a vague “threat” to society.

Critics of the SAFE Act were not limited to firearms owners. New mental health provisions in the bill frightened healthcare professionals, who see serious implications for not only patients’ rights, but also deterring treatment. “I think there's a very realistic probability that patients will simply avoid seeking treatment,” Dr. Paul Applebaum, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, told CBS News about the SAFE Act. “Or, if they come to treatment will sit there without disclosing what's truly on their mind for fear that if they do the state will know about it and consequences will follow.”

As should be expected with legislation hastily crafted on the coattails of a national tragedy, the SAFE Act largely provides the illusion of safety, but at the expense of individual liberties. Moreover, the effect of such shoddy legislation is already being seen, turning law-abiding citizens into victims of political negligence.

Last week, for example, Fox News reported a story about Buffalo-area resident, David Lewis, who received a letter from the Erie County clerk notifying him that his pistol license was suspended, and that he could have it revoked should he not obey the suspension. According to his attorney, Lewis was actually the victim of mistaken identity. The State relied on bad information in concluding Lewis was taking psychotropic prescription drugs for an illness that made him a “danger to the community.”


Bob Barr

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 -2003 and as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986-1990.