Lawmen weigh in on gun legislation
Some highly critical, some hopeful
CAPITAL REGION In the week since Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state legislators toughened state gun laws, organizations around the state and locally have weighed in on the issue.
Some, like the state Association of Chiefs of Police and state District Attorneys Association, have issued statements in support of the measure, saying it provides better tools for law enforcement to protect communities or will be another step toward protecting citizens.
Others, like the state Sheriff’s Association, have issued more detailed responses, supporting some provisions in the measure while taking stances against others.
Locally, the Saratoga County Deputy Sheriff’s PBA has taken a more pointed stance, calling the law “disturbing,” saying it “fails miserably to offer any meaningful solutions to the epidemic of gun violence.”
Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney — in a statement issued after Cuomo’s State of the State address but before the gun law’s passage — called ideas “common sense proposals.”
Also weighing in is the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Larry Bradt, R-Carlisle, issued a lengthy rebuke of the changes at a board meeting last week, calling on residents and officials to sign on to a petition calling for a repeal of “this crazy law.”
The Legislature hurriedly passed the legislation Jan. 15, restricting the sale of “assault weapons” and limiting the number of bullets in a magazine for semiautomatic rifles and handguns. Those who already owned banned weapons would be allowed to keep them, but they must register them with police. They have a year to register.
Ammunition magazines are now restricted to seven rounds; the former restriction was 10. It expands the database of those barred from owning guns, requires background checks for buying bullets and flags those buying large quantities of ammunition.
On Wednesday, Carney said assault weapons pose special risks and cited local cases where assault weapons were used. In one, a man fired multiple bullets with an assault rifle, wounding a woman hiding behind a car. In another from 1998, a man used a Russian-made SKS assault rifle to gun down his wife and son before using his large capacity magazine to shoot his way to a surviving witness.
“When assault weapons are used, they can be highly lethal and dangerous to other people in the vicinity. That’s what happened in both those cases,” Carney said.
Regarding the new law, Carney called it a balancing act between the rights of people to lawfully own weapons and the danger to public safety. “I think it was a reasonable compromise,” he said.
Those treating mental health patients also will be required to tell authorities if a patient threatens to use a gun illegally. Any guns owned by the patient could then be taken away.
In its letter to state officials dated Jan. 24, the Saratoga County Deputy Sheriff’s PBA cited the mental health provisions as encouraging, but criticized much of the rest.
“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,” the letter reads.
The state Sheriff’s Association website praised the background check requirements on private gun sales, but argued it will be difficult to enforce and likely will only affect law-abiding citizens.
The magazine capacity restrictions won’t reduce gun violence, the state association wrote. Like the Saratoga County Deputy Sheriff’s PBA, the association also questioned the swift passage of the bill without a full public debate.
Regarding the assault weapons restrictions, the state association finds the definition too broad, including weapons legitimately used for hunting, target shooting or self defense. “We are convinced that only law abiding gun owners will be affected by these new provisions,” the statement reads, “while criminals will still have and use whatever weapons they want.”
The state District Attorney’s Association and the Association of Chiefs of Police, though, support the measure.
“It will provide law enforcement with stronger tools to protect our communities from gun violence, including provisions that better enable us to combat gun trafficking and violent gangs,” DA’s association president and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said in a news release
The state Association of Chiefs of Police wrote they hoped the legislation will allow for speedy processing of legal gun registrations, but also keep guns out of the wrong hands.
“These new laws will provide our members in law enforcement with additional tools they need by raising penalties for killing a first responder, closing the private sale loophole and allowing for more thorough background checks of those who disqualify — specifically, the mentally ill,” the chiefs association statement reads.