BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The embattled state gun control law is about to be put to the test. Two key components are taking effect.
Starting Friday, universal background checks are required for all gun purchases - including private sales. And beginning Saturday, mental health professionals will be required to report the names of patients who they believe are likely to hurt themselves or others.
Backers of the law say the universal background checks are designed to close a loophole in private sales, requiring private sellers to run the same federal background check that dealers already run before they sell guns.
The provision taking effect requires checks by a licensed gun dealer, who can charge $10 and then issue a form showing the prospective buyer passed. Although, there is an exemption.
Sen. Patrick Gallivan explained, "There is an immediate family exemption that I believe includes spouses, domestic partners, children and stepchildren. And if we have to have background checks for all transfers of weapons, it is appropriate to have certain exemptions in my view."
But will gun owners go through with the background checks in a private sale? Dennis Deasy, owner of Niagara Gun Range, doesn't believe so.
"There's been no communication. It's: 'Here it is. Do it,'" Deasy said.
He says he's received no instructions from the state, despite the fact that he will now have to run background checks for people conducting private sales of firearms.
Deasy said, "I'm going to have to get involved in doing paperwork and only getting a $10 free out of it. It's not even technically worth my time."
"God's honest truth, I think that very few people are going to do it. It's a legal firearm. They'll just sell it, they'll just turned around and say, 'I sold it at a gun show' or 'I sold that thing years ago.' It's an unenforceable law."
Other provisions taking effect will require mental health professionals to report patients likely to seriously hurt someone. The information would then be cross-checked against a gun registration database.
Dr. Michael Cummings, Director of Community Psychiatry at the UB School of Medicine, said, "We all know it's going to add a lot to our day, and not in a manner that's going to benefit our patients."
Dr. Cummings says mentally ill individuals are much more likely to be victims of violent crimes.
"It's about 12 times more likely that a seriously mentally ill individual will be a victim of a crime than a perpetrator. And really only about four percent of violent crimes are committed by those with serious mental illness," Dr. Cummings said.
He added a person reported could end up on the state registry for five years. And, he says, there's no age limit.
"There's a lot of concern that this will affect existing treatment relationships. And also really add a barrier to individuals seeking help," Dr. Cummings said.
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