Lawmakers Call for Probe of State Police After Gun Seizure Snafu

11:47 PM, Apr 12, 2013   |    comments
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State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst) and State Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak (D-Cheektowaga)

BUFFALO, NY - Two New York State lawmakers are calling for an investigation of state police after a local man was mistakenly ordered to turn over his guns to police.

Although David Lewis got his guns back after hiring a lawyer, politicians and gun owners are beginning to ask questions about how state police are seizing guns based on someone's medical history.

The national media starting to ask questions. On Friday, Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs and James Tresmond, who is the attorney for Lewis, appeared on Fox News They and others are trying to make sense of how Lewis, a college librarian from Amherst, was mistakenly ordered to turn in his guns.

All of this apparently stems from Governor Cuomo's signature gun control bill, the SAFE Act, which requires mental health professionals to notify the state when they believe a patient is at risk of hurting themselves or others. State Police and the Erie County Clerk had misidentified Lewis as such a threat, confusing him with someone else with the same name. Both sides have blamed each other for the snafu.

It's not sitting well with some State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst) and State Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak (D-Cheektowaga). They are calling for an investigation of state police, specifically how the police are using medical records to seize guns.

REPORTER: What exactly are the state police allowed to do?
RANZENHOFER: That's a very good question, and one of the things I've done is I've reached out to (State Police) Superintendent (Joseph) D'Amico to ask him that very question because, as I said, we're getting a lot of calls from concerned constituents. I'm concerned when I hear about the state police - the state government -- looking into people's medical records, their mental health records.

Gabryszak said he is also in the dark

REPORTER: Do we know exactly what the state police are doing?
GABRYSZAK: That's a good question, Aaron. Quite honestly, I can't tell you right now that I know.

Both Gabryszak and Ranzenhofer worry police are violating medical privacy laws, or perhaps even worse.

"In my years of public service, I've never heard of a police agency being able to go into and just access someone's medical records without a search warrant, without some sort of court authority, without some sort of oversight," Ranzenhofer said.

Gabryszak said that gun owners should be concerned.

"If this happened with the first attempt here in Erie County with this David (Lewis), who was the wrong person, quite honestly, what does that say for what may happen in the future?" Gabryszak asked. "So, there's an awful lot of questions that need to be answered."

2 On Your Side called a spokesperson for the state police Friday afternoon to ask if the state police would explain the specific process they use to investigate a gun owner with mental health issues, and under what authority. They told us to send them our questions in an email. We did, but have not heard back. We'll let you know if and when they respond.

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