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Suffolk County Approves Gun Control Bill For Psychiatric Patients

An assortment of handguns (file/credit: JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

An assortment of handguns (file/credit: JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

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RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Suffolk County legislators  have approved a gun control bill intended to remove weapons from the hands of psychiatric patients deemed a threat to themselves or others.

The measure was approved unanimously on Tuesday. It was introduced in response to the mass shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

The bill’s sponsor, Legislator Kara Hahn, called it a “common-sense measure that moves us toward the goal of keeping guns from individuals too unstable to have access to such a weapon.”

It calls for police to check the county’s pistol registry for the names and addresses of individuals involuntarily taken to an emergency psychiatric hospital. Investigators also may suspend the pistol license of anyone living with the patient.

“In the days following all mass shootings there is always a search for missed warning signs,” Hahn said in a statement. “An involuntary transport to a psychiatric emergency room should be a red flag of an individual’s mental state. My goal is to never have to look back following a tragedy and ask, ‘how this warning or that red flag was missed.'”

“Sometimes there are dots that can be connected and we hope that the efforts we take will prevent something and save lives,” Hahn told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs.

Police last year transported 3,000 people they deemed dangerous to psychiatric facilities. Four had pistol permits and a fifth had an application pending.

Suffolk has 37,000 licensed handgun owners.

The bill must be signed by County Executive Steve Bellone.

“This is a simple connect the dots measure,” Hahn added. “We are focusing in on the ones who have been identified as a threat to themselves or others.”

The bill was approved nearly two months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre in Newtown, Conn.

Under prior state law, assault weapons are defined by having two “military rifle” features spelled out in the law. The new law reduces that to one feature and include the popular pistol grip.

It also forces gun owners to renew their licenses every five years, stiffens penalties for using a gun in the commission of a crime and for bringing a gun on school property.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)