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Monthly Archives: January 2013
*** This is weak opposition to just the unfunded mandates ***
The New York State Association of County Clerks (NYSACC) has represented all 62 elected or appointed County Clerks within the State for over 75 years. Many County Clerks are responsible for filing pistol or revolver license records. The recent New York State gun legislation, and proposed chapter amendments, has potential impacts to the County Clerk’s role when administrating the filing of pistol or revolver license records. NYSACC believes the following requests are necessary to follow for the safety and wellbeing of our residents:
- NYSACC opposes any effort to make the county government responsible for now statutory five year recertification process. Any shift of this responsibility from the State Police to the county government would amount to an unfunded mandate on county taxpayers.
- NYSACC opposes any effort to shift responsibility to county government regarding the rifle registry that is detailed in the Governor’s SAFE act. Such a change would amount to an unfunded mandate on county taxpayers.
- NYSACC opposes the imposition of any fees on New York State gun owners to finance the new provisions of the SAFE act.
- Any costs associated with the implementation of the SAFE act must be borne by the State, not the local counties.
- County Clerks support the continuation of the Pistol Permit Application, Amendments and files should be maintained at the county level.
- County Clerks stress the importance of communication and transferring of information between the County Clerks, the State Police, NYS Mental Health and OCA.
- Recognizing the fluid and quick changing nature of potential legislation on gun control, the Executive Officers of NYSACC are hereby authorized to issue a letter of opposition for any bill that attempts to enact the above mention actions. This authority shall expire on December 31, 2013.
Ulster County Legislators Don Gregorius and David Donaldson have withdrawn a resolution calling on the federal government to implement nationwide gun regulations.
The action by the two Democrats comes just days after hundreds of gun rights advocates descended on a Legislature meeting to decry gun control laws. But Gregorius said the outcry did not play a role in the decision.
Westchester County legislators have begun to discuss a proposed resolution that would call on the federal government to impose greater gun control measures.
The call comes in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre.
Town board members in Thompson will address the issue of federal gun control when they meet next week.
Town Supervisor Anthony Cellini has introduced a resolution calling on the board to oppose any legislation that would infringe on the right of people to bear arms.
The subject of guns is dominating the political landscape across the United States, especially in New York State. The recently passed NY SAFE Act is the toughest set of gun laws in the nation.
The Association of Erie County Governments is looking into a resolution opposing the legislation, while a local top cop voices his support for the tough gun legislation.
The Association says many members are “concerned” about the way in which the SAFE Act passed.
Following passage of the SAFE Act by the State Legislature and approval by the Governor, the Sheriffs now have had the opportunity to review the language of the new law and wish to make our comments available. The Sheriffs of New York state support many of the provisions of the SAFE Act, and believe that they will enhance public safety and help to shield citizens from gun violence. However, there are also some parts of this new law that need clarification, and some that we think should be reconsidered and modified to meet the concerns of the law enforcement community and the public at large.
We have identified the following six provisions of the new law which we believe are helpful and will increase the safety of our citizens. These include:
• Restriction on FOIL requests about pistol permit holders. By granting citizens the option of having their names and addresses withheld from public disclosure, the new law does provide a mechanism to allow people to decide for themselves whether their personal information should be accessible to the public. We believe, however, that no one should have to explain why their personal information should remain confidential. A better procedure, we believe, is simply to exempt all this personal information from FOIL disclosure.
• Killing of emergency first responders. The new law makes killing of emergency first responders aggravated or first degree murder, enhancing penalties for this crime and requiring life without parole. First responders need this protection, evidenced all too often by attacks on them when they attempt to provide help, and in special recognition of the terrible attacks on two firefighters in Webster, NY and attacks on first responders in Jefferson County.
• Requirement of NICS checks for private sales (except between immediate family). We believe that this will ensure that responsible citizens will still be able to obtain legal firearms through private transactions, with the added assurance that private buyers are approved by the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System. We remain concerned that this provision will be very difficult to enforce and will likely only affect law abiding citizens.
• Comprehensive review of mental health records before firearms permits are granted and review of records to determine if revocation of permits is required. Sheriffs believe that there is an urgent need to increase funding for mental health care. The new law imposes reporting requirements on many mental health care professionals and others who may make a determination that a person is a danger to himself or others. The law further gives needed authority to courts or others who issue firearms permits to deny permit applications or to revoke permits already issued. We believe that this issue demands a much more full and detailed discussion about how to keep guns out of the hands of such people. The Sheriffs of New York want to pursue these issues with the Governor and the State Legislature.
• Safe storage of firearms. The new law provides that guns must be safely stored if the owner lives with someone who has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence crime, has been involuntarily committed, or is currently under an order of protection. We agree that firearms owners should have the responsibility to make sure that their weapons are safeguarded against use or access by prohibited persons, and the new law adds these protections to ensure that weapons are safely and securely stored.
• Increased penalties for illegal use of weapons. The new law adds several increased sanctions for violation of New York gun laws and creates new gun crimes which did not previously exist. These new provisions will provide added tools for law enforcement to prosecute such crimes. We further believe that the new provisions should help deter future misuse of firearms. We also suggest that the legislature consider limitations on plea bargaining for all gun crimes.
We have reviewed other provisions of the new law, and strongly believe that modifications are needed to clarify the intent of some of these new provisions and that revisions are needed to allow Sheriffs to properly enforce the law in their counties.
• Assault weapon ban and definition of assault weapons. We believe that the new definition of assault weapons is too broad, and prevents the possession of many weapons that are legitimately used for hunting, target shooting and self defense. Classifying firearms as assault weapons because of one arbitrary feature effectively deprives people the right to possess firearms which have never before been designated as assault weapons. We are convinced that only law abiding gun owners will be affected by these new provisions, while criminals will still have and use whatever weapons they want.
• Inspection of schools by state agencies. The new law transfers to state agencies the responsibility to review school safety plans. We expect that funding will be transferred to these state agencies to implement safety proposals. Sheriffs and local police provide this service in all parts of the state and can perform these duties efficiently. As the chief law enforcement officer of the county, Sheriffs are in the best position to know the security needs of schools in their own counties, and the state should help to fund these existing efforts by Sheriffs and local police departments to keep our schools safe. Because Sheriffs and local police are already deeply involved with school safety plans, have developed emergency response plans, and are familiar with structural layouts of schools in their counties, they should be included along with state counterparts in any effort to review school safety plans.
• Reduction of ammunition magazine capacity. The new law enacts reductions in the maximum capacity of gun magazines. We believe based on our years of law enforcement experience that this will not reduce gun violence. The new law will unfairly limit the ability of law‐abiding citizens to purchase firearms in New York. It bears repeating that it is our belief that the reduction of magazine capacity will not make New Yorkers or our communities safer.
• Five year recertification of pistol permit status and registration of existing assault weapons. The new law delegates to the State Police the duty to solicit and receive updated personal information of permit holders every five years in order to maintain these permits. Further, the law requires owners of certain existing firearms now classified as assault weapons to register these with the State Police within one year. The recertification and registration conflict with Sheriffs’ duties regarding issuance of pistol permits. All records should be maintained at the local, and not the state level. This information should be accessible to those who are responsible for initial investigation of permit applications. Pistol permit information should be maintained in one file at the local level, and forwarded to a statewide database for law enforcement use. It bears repeating that it is our belief that pistol permit and any registration information required by the law should be confidential and protected from FOIL disclosure.
• Sale of ammunition. The new law imposes several new provisions regarding how, and from whom, ammunition can be lawfully purchased. The law should be clarified about the use of the Internet as a vehicle for these sales, out‐of‐state sales to New York residents, and other issues. Businesses have said that they do not understand the new provisions and are concerned that they will have to cease operations.
• Law enforcement exemptions must be clarified. The new law has many provisions that might apply to law enforcement officers and there has been much confusion about whether existing law enforcement exemptions continue to apply. We understand that the Governor and Legislature have already agreed to review and modify these provisions where necessary, and the Sheriffs want to be part of the discussion to make the changes effective. Additionally, the exemptions should apply to retired police and peace officers, and to others in the employ of the Sheriff and other police agencies who perform security duties at public facilities and events.
• Method of bill passage. It is the view of the Sheriffs’ Association that anytime government decides it is necessary or desirable to test the boundaries of a constitutional right that it should only be done with caution and with great respect for those constitutional boundaries. Further, it should only be done if the benefit to be gained is so great and certain that it far outweighs the damage done by the constriction of individual liberty. While many of the provisions of the new law have surface appeal, it is far from certain that all, or even many, of them will have any significant effect in reducing gun violence, which is the presumed goal of all of us. Unfortunately the process used in adoption of this act did not permit the mature development of the arguments on either side of the debate, and thus many of the stakeholders in this important issue are left feeling ignored by their government. Even those thrilled with the passage of this legislation should be concerned about the process used to secure its passage, for the next time they may find themselves the victim of that same process. Fortunately, the Governor has shown himself open to working with interested parties to address some of the problems that arose due to the hasty enactment of this law. We will work with the Governor and the Legislature on these issues.
• Sheriffs understand their Constitutional obligations and the concerns of constituents Sheriffs and other law enforcement officers are not called upon by this new legislation to go door‐to‐door to confiscate any weapons newly classified as assault weapons, and will not do so.
Sheriffs represent all the people, and we take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York. Sheriffs will continue to enforce all laws of the state and will protect the rights of all citizens, including those rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York.
Warren County supervisors didn’t plan to discuss New York’s recent gun law changes at their meeting Friday.
But a comment by one supervisor about the state’s method in changing the law, and how it differed from the procedures counties must follow to change laws, ended with a committee unanimously passing a resolution opposing both the law change and how the state made it.
Read the complete statement here. Text follows:
Dear Governor Cuomo, Senators Klein, Marchione, Skelos, Stewart-Cousins, and Chairman Cox;
By this correspondence, the Saratoga County Deputy Sheriffs’ Pol ice Benevolent Association (SCDSPBA) would like to announce our strong opposition to the passage of the SAFE Act and the manner in which is was negotiated and subsequently voted upon. The SCDSPBA represents the sworn men and women police officers of the Saratoga County Sheriff’ s Office.
Our objections to the legislation are numerous and begin with the process under which the bill was voted on in the Senate. It is deeply disturbing to our membership, as public servants and citizens of the state of New York. the manner in which this legislation was brought to the Senate for vote. It is our understanding that many senators had approximately 20 minutes to read the legislation before being forced to vote on it and note that the bill was brought before the Senate and voted on so quickly that its authors failed to make provisions for the exemption of police officers or the National Guard with respect to the new magazine-capacity requirements.
Having reviewed the legislation and given the time constraints, it is our conclusion that there is no possible way any normal person could have read the entire bill and understood its implications prior to voting on it. They most certainly could not have requested and received the input of their constituency and considered their opinions in the matter – which is the most basic tenet of a representative government. The entire process was one of secrecy and of intentional withholding of information from the public. We condemn this in the harshest terns.
Had there been an opportunity for the public to exercise their right to be involved in the legislative process prior to the bill being voted upon, we would have offered a letter of opposition. Instead, we find ourselves in the rather unique position of opposing legislation after it has been passed. Our membership believes we were denied one of the nest basic rights of a democracy by this process and we cannot and will not accept this type of behavior from our elected officials.
In our opinion. there was absolutely no reason for the Governor to use a message of necessity to bring this bill to vote. We note that the Governor has used the message of necessity 35 times since taking office and for nearly every major piece of legislation he has sought to pass. This particular bill has 56 sections; 53 take effect in 60 days, 2 take effect in 1 year and 1 section, which requires owners of certain firearms to register them within l year, takes effect immediately.
In other words, given the language of the bill itself, there is no emergency. As the message of necessity is to be used solely in the case of a true emergency that warrants the waiver of the 3 day maturing process for all legislation, the Governor’s actions were questionable at best and a deliberate attempt to bypass the Constitutional process and thus opposition to the bill at worst. The evidence strongly suggests the latter.
The Senate Leadership also had a responsibility to negotiate this legislation publicly and to call the Governor out on his excessive use of the message of necessity. Unfortunately, they chose not to do either, thus depriving approximately 19.5 million citizens the opportunity to offer meaningful comments and criticisms of the bill, and to exercise their rights under our system of government. In short, the Senate Leadership allowed the Governor to force legislation upon the citizens of our state.
Instead of offering a check-and-balance against the Executive Branch. the Senate Leadership condoned and authorized what may fairly be described as ruling by fiat. Whether one is for or against the new legislation, all citizens should be truly concerned by the manner in which our allegedly representative government behaved and we condemn this in the harshest terms.
As a predominantly rural county in upstate New York, the lawful ownership of firearms is and has been a valued tradition enjoyed by many of our citizens. Sadly, the legislation effectively turns countless law—abiding gun owners into criminals for absolutely no reason.
Many of our membership are gun-owners and have gone through the same licensing process as non~police officers and it is our belief that this process has served our citizens well. Mandating law-abiding gun owners to now have to register certain types of firearms on~a yearly basis, in addition to registering them on their permits (which now must be renewed every 5 years), accomplishes nothing in the area of public safety and is unnecessarily burdensome to a citizen who has done nothing but abide by the laws of our state.
The SCSDPBA reminds addressees that “assault weapons”, which are banned under the new legislation if they have 1 military-type feature, were responsible for 5 out of 769 homicides in New York last year – or .007% – hardly a public safety crisis for our state. The Albany County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted 4 cases involving assault weapons last year – none of which involved their use in the commission of a crime – and a recent FBI report showed that hammers and clubs were responsible for more deaths than rifles and shotguns.
Given the foregoing, our membership questions why there was a need to ban the lawful use, possession, and sale of these firearms at all . Again, many citizens of our county previously enjoyed the use of these rifles for activities such as hunting and target shooting, and are now being forced to register these firearms, on a yearly basis, when they have done nothing wrong. In addition, any semi-automatic pistol that has 1 “military—type” feature will, under the new law, be considered an assault weapon.
While it may come as a surprise to the authors of the legislation, most semi-automatic pistols do in fact come with a pistol grin. making nearly every semi—automatic pistol an assault weapon and thus subject to registration on a yearly basis. This registration is in addition to registering the pistol on one’s pistol license every 5 years. The SCDSPBA believes this is absurd, serves no public safety interest in the slightest, and crosses the proverbial line from reasonable restrictions on gun ownership to outright harassment of law-abiding gun owners.
As police officers who encounter criminal activity on a daily basis, our membership finds the notion that a criminal might somehow wait in line to turn in his or her high-capacity magazines or sell them to someone out-of-state to be so ridiculous as to be not based in reality. It is beyond shocking that a member of a body entrusted to legislate the very laws that govern our society could, with a straight face, argue this point.
Our membership believes, as do most people of sound mind, that the only persons who will abide by the new high—capacity magazine ban are the law—abiding, leaving the same high-capacity magazines in the hands of those who choose not to obey the law.
Additionally, from an ethical and moral standpoint, we question why, if high-capacity magazines are as destructive and deadly as the legislature contends, they could be allowed to be sold to someone out-of—state. Certainly, they would be as dangerous in New Jersey as they would be in New York. Since 85 to 90% of guns used in crimes in New York originate from out-of-state, it is nothing short of incredible to us that the authors of this legislation could not have foreseen the possibility of these magazines finding their way back into New York.
However this is the proposed solution offered by our elected officials, for which we can find no discernible logic.
While there are some areas of the legislation that the union finds encouraging, such as addressing glaring shortcomings in the mental health system by-and-large, our membership finds the legislation to be little more than a thinly-veiled attempt at regulating lawful gun ownership out of existence. From the manner in which the legislation was negotiated in secret, to the fashion in which it was brought to the Senate floor for vote, there was nothing about the process that was transparent or that took into consideration what cannot be disputed – that law-abiding gun owners are not and have not been the source of criminal activity.
The legislation fails miserably to offer any meaningful solutions to the epidemic of gun violence and places the blame squarely where it does not belong – on the shoulders of law-abiding citizens. One need look no further than the embarrassment of New York’s Combined Ballistic Identification System that devoured $44 million in taxpayer money over 11 years to regulate lawful gun—ownership and which resulted in no convictions of anyone for anything to illustrate the non- complicity of lawful gun—owners in recent events.
In recent days, we have also become aware of published reports describing a large and growing movement within our state of citizens who have apparently announced their intention of non—compliance with the new statutes as they relate to assault weapons and registration. With an estimated 1 million assault rifles in existence throughout New York, it is beyond comprehension that the legislature and the Governor would needlessly place police officers in a position where they might be called upon to confiscate the previously lawfully owned property of an American citizen.
There can be no denying the potential danger this prospect places law enforcement in and once again strongly suggests a bill that was rushed to passage without forethought or any regard for its potential implications. We cannot excuse this and do not appreciate our very safety being sacrificed for political gain.
In conclusion, we would be remiss were we to not mention our outrage at the conduct of the Senate Republican Coalition. Many of our membership contacted Senator Skelos’ office on a regular basis to voice opposition to additional regulations of firearms and were assured that the senator’s office was being flooded with similar calls. We have, in the past, always looked to the Republican party to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens much in the same way we place our lives on the line every day to protect the rights of all citizens.
To have them negotiated away in secret and to be stripped of them in a clandestine vote is both appalling and unforgivable. It will most certainly give pause to many of our individual members when considering their voting choices in the future and we condemn this in the strongest possible way. For the foregoing reasons, we cannot offer our support for this legislation.
We encourage members of the legislature to hold hearings where the public is afforded the right to participate in the legislative process, to address the issue of gun violence in a way that might actually produce meaningful results, and to stop holding law-abiding citizens who choose to exercise their rights under the Second Amendment hostage for the criminal behavior of another, and the political aspirations of the Governor.
Charles E. Fuller
President – SCDSPBA