Highlights of the March 19, 2013 meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature

Citizens Speak Out on New York SAFE Act; Legislators Call Special Public Safety Meeting Next Week to Examine the Issue

The Tompkins County Legislature listened to nearly three hours of public comment regarding the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (more commonly known as the SAFE Act), and decided to examine the issue at a special meeting of its Public Safety Committee next week before weighing in on the new law, which prompted comments both against and in support before Legislators tonight.

At what may have been a record in recent history for public turnout and comment before the Legislature, more than 200 citizens turned out, filling the Legislature Chambers and overflowing into the Main Courtroom at the County Courthouse. Of them, 59 people spoke—about two thirds (37) urging repeal of the Act and about one-third (22) in support. Opponents faulted both the new law itself—which they maintained is a misguided attempt that infringes upon law-abiding citizens’ rights—and the way it was rushed through to passage without public input. They said it’s time for Tompkins County to join nearly every other upstate county in opposing the law. Supporters said reasonable gun control measures are needed in New York State to reduce gun violence and, while the SAFE Act may not be perfect, it is a start. Legislator after legislator thanked those who turned out for their reasoned, passionate, and mutually respectful comments. Legislators praised it as a valuable and impressive educational session, and said they learned a lot.

A member-filed resolution from Legislator Dave McKenna, would put the Legislature on record opposing both the SAFE Act, which has imposed new regulations on gun possession and sales in New York State, and what it calls “the flawed process by which it was enacted and urges that it be replaced with “more sensible legislation.” With Mr. McKenna’s resolution and perhaps as many as four alternates in process advanced as potential alternatives and the volume of concerned public comment, Legislator Peter Stein, vice chair of the Public Safety Committee noted that “this is a very complicated issue, and I think it’s very important for us to get it right,” and he urged that the matter be referred to the Public Safety Committee to go through Legislature’s normal committee process. Others agreed that’s important for the sake of transparency and thorough examination, which many critics of the law said did not happen at the State level. The proposal to refer to committee was approved by a 10-3 vote, with Legislators McKenna, Frank Proto, and Public Safety Chair Brian Robison voting no, and Legislator Pam Mackesey excused.

Committee Chair Robison said it’s important to move forward without delay so that the matter could come before the full Legislature at its next meeting. The special meeting is scheduled Wednesday, March 27, beginning at 4:00 p.m., location to be announced. Robison said, “I am hopeful that this does not in the end turn out to be a partisan issue, because this is not a partisan issue. We are going to vote on this issue, one way or another.”

Contact: Legislator David McKenna, 564-7243; Brian Robison, Chair, Public Safety Committee, 351-3601.

PDF: Highlights of the March 19, 2013 meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature

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