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Legislature to vote on condemning gun law; Opposition in Sullivan is strong

Sullivan County Sheriff Mike Schiff, left, and county attorney Sam Yasgur speak in favor of a resolution calling for repeal of the new state gun law.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
March 13, 2013

Legislator Gene Benson said he has received 300 emails opposing the New York Secure Ammunitions and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE), which puts limits on the sale of assault weapons and the size of magazine clips. Legislator Kathy LaBuda said she received about 200 emails and only one was in favor of the law.

The discussion came after Benson read a draft resolution calling for a repeal of the law at a meeting at the government center on March 7.

Sheriff Mike Schiff said the people who are complaining about this law are usually the silent majority, who normally don’t complain much.

Only one person who spoke supported the law or at least parts of it. Resident Tom Manza said that while parts of the law are bad and it was enacted out of the view of the public, there were some good things in the law and it was his opinion that the average person in Sullivan County would not like to see it torn up. Rather than a resolution to repeal the act, he asked the legislature to pass a resolution calling for amendments to it.

Schiff said that there were some things that were good in the bill but there were also bad things in it that got pushed through. His opinion is that the law should be repealed, and then the process should start over with open deliberation and debate, “and make a positive law that will do some good for New York.”

The draft resolution also touched on the fact that the law was passed without public input. It said, “The members of the Sullivan County Legislature wish to express their concern that any legislation which addresses the ownership of guns and the sale of ammunition should be conducted only after an open debate in which the public is allowed to participate and express their point of view.”

Other aspects of the law that were discussed were measures giving mental health workers more ability to report dangerous individuals that might misuse a gun. Joe Tedora, director of community services, said New York State Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors put out a position paper on the law basically saying that “we’re no safer today than before this act occurred.” He said he already has the authority to have police seize the weapons of someone who he feels is a danger to himself or others.

The legislature is expected to vote on the resolution on March 14.

In Sullivan County, speakers who addressed the issue of NY SAFE at public meetings have overwhelmingly opposed the NY SAFE law because, in their view, it tramples on resident’s Second Amendment rights. Statewide, however, there is a very different picture.