February 22, 2013
Panel backs gun law repeal
County joins growing list of those opposing NY SAFE Act
A five-member panel of Cortland County legislators drafted a detailed resolution Thursday calling for repeal of the recently approved state gun law known as the New York SAFE Act.
In doing so, Cortland County is joining the 23 counties statewide that have called for the law to be repealed, according to a map on Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin’s Facebook page. Fifteen others are in the process of calling for a repeal, according to the map.
The state has 62 counties.
Legislators are adding a few more provisions to the resolution that oppose the added costs on local governments of pistol permit recertifications, and the final resolution will be voted on by the full Legislature Thursday.
Legislators Dave Fuller (R-Cincinnatus, Taylor, Freetown and Willet), Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton), Ray Parker (D-2nd Ward), Tony Pace (D-7th Ward) and Gordon Wheelock (R-Homer) sit on the panel.
The resolution details aspects of the law that county officials think unfairly burden counties with extra costs of pistol reregistration, stigmatize the mentally ill, punish law-abiding citizens and do nothing to prevent criminals from obtaining weapons.
Requiring a gun owner to renew a pistol permit every five years will put a costly burden on counties mandated to uphold that requirement, states the resolution.
Pace, who is concerned that the mentally ill will be stigmatized through the law, said he is happy the resolution calling for repeal of the law addresses those concerns.
The resolution states the SAFE Act could deter the mentally ill from seeking help and adds that it places an undue burden on local mental health systems to fulfill reporting requirements. The SAFE Act requires the county director of community services to report potentially violent individuals to the Division of Criminal Justice Services. This information would be submitted with the intent of getting information about whether that individual possesses firearms and whether those weapons should be confiscated.
Funds would be better spent directed toward local mental health programs, the resolution states.
Pace said he supports the resolution calling for the law’s repeal so it can be re-examined.
He is concerned that mentally ill people may have their weapons taken away from them just on suspicion of being violent and because the director of community services would adopt a zero tolerance policy to protect the county.
“At the hospital, somebody would come in and turn around and automatically they would say, just to cover their liability, the person is a danger and have their guns confiscated,” Pace said.
Fuller also supports repealing the law because he wants the SAFE Act thrown out entirely.
“I’m concerned about law abiding citizens’ rights being infringed,” Fuller said.
He said he supports two aspects of the SAFE Act: that which allows pistol permits to be made confidential and the provision requiring a life sentence for anyone who murders a first responder.
He and Pace got into a heated argument over the role of mental illness in the gun control debate, with Pace saying they are unfairly stigmatized and Fuller questioning why mental incompetence is a common defense in crimes. Fuller said the mental health aspect needs to be studied.
Legislator Susan Briggs (R-Cortlandville) attended the meeting and said she supports repealing the law because it was approved hastily and needs to be redrafted in a well thought-out way.
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