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WNY lawmakers address mental health and school violence provisions

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Buffalo: WNY lawmakers address mental health and school violence provisions
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Some Western New York lawmakers held a forum Wednesday to talk about mental health, school safety, and violence. As YNN's Kevin Jolly reports, much of the testimony focuses on the states tough new gun laws.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It was supposed to be a bipartisan forum on mental health, school safety, and violence in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook and the state's passage of its tough new gun laws.

It turned into a scathing criticism of the Governor and the law he pushed.

"The process by which the Safe Act was passed in New York, preventing input from many critical constituents, the governor's misuse of the method of necessity provision interfered with the legislature's ability to full understand the bill prior to the vote and kept the public from having the opportunity to provide feedback," said Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, (R).

Corwin was one of several lawmakers listening to testimony from experts in law enforcement, mental health education, and gun owners about school safety, violence, and mental health.

One of the provisions of the new state law aims to keep guns away from the mentally ill. But, Ken Houseknecht of the Mental Health Association of Erie County cautioned against putting mental illness and violence under one umbrella.

"The main issue we want to convey is that sometimes when you link school safety, mental health, and gun violence, you perpetuate the stigma that the mentally ill are violent when in fact they're 12 times more likely to be the victims of crime, not perpetrators," said Houseknecht.

"I think one of the most important points was made by the doctor that we shouldn't be folding mental health issues with gun legislation. These are very important points. What we're talking about is really having impact on our communities and how we can remedy these terrible horrific events that happen everyday," said Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, (D).

Lawmakers say they plan to take the testimony they've heard and develop a more comprehensive response to the new SAFE ACT.

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