People who present a clear danger to themselves or others shouldn't have access to guns. To see that they don't, Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) has proposed legislation mandating that pistol permit registries be searched for the names of anyone involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward. If the patient holds permits, those would be suspended and the guns confiscated -- as is already done for domestic violence suspects and people whose behavior has been limited by a court-issued protective order. Gun owners would be able to appeal the suspensions and could get their licenses and weapons back, based on individual circumstances.
There are a lot of aspects of gun control that are contentious and open to debate, but this one shouldn't be. If a person is worrisome enough to be committed to a psychiatric facility involuntarily, he or she is worrisome enough to be disarmed, at least temporarily.
In fact, in a bow to common sense, Suffolk police have already begun the checks. Police Commissioner Edward Webber implemented them early this month, as soon as the law was proposed, because of the potential to save lives. The sheriff's office, which keeps the handgun registry for the county's five East End towns, says it will also begin doing the checks. Nassau officials say they already do this on a case-by-case basis.
The Suffolk legislature's public safety committee approved the bill Wednesday. It deserves passage by the legislature when it is taken up next week.