SARATOGA SPRINGS -- New York gun owners may not like the SAFE Act, but at least in Saratoga County, they are learning to deal with its requirements.
In accordance with the gun control measure passed into law in 2013, the State Police Pistol Permit Bureau started sending out 5-year recertification letters to gun owners in January. Anyone with a pistol permit from before 2013 is required to re-certify by Jan. 31, 2018. Anyone who received a permit after 2013 will have to renew the permit five years from the date it was issued.
The requirement is new — and one Sheriff Michael Zurlo calls redundant.
“I’m against the SAFE Act; I’m against this process,” he said. “But it’s the law as of now, and I’m telling people to complete this form and send it in.”
Saratoga County Clerk Craig Hayner, another SAFE Act critic, said if people don’t re-certify by the deadline, they risk having their gun licenses revoked, as well as their guns.
“It would make every gun owner who didn’t re-certify have a misdemeanor overnight,” he said. “They become a criminal in the eyes of the way the SAFE Act provision is written right now."
Next week, Zurlo and Hayner will join Ben Potiker, president of the Upstate Conservative Coalition of Saratoga Springs, for a forum to go over the re-certification process and answer any questions gun owners might have. The event runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Milton Community Center.
“We are happy to host this event as a community service to the lawful gun owners of Saratoga County,” Potiker said in a prepared statement.
Zurlo said the state's re-certification process is redundant because gun owners already receive a pistol permit through his office and are required to amend it to keep the information up-to-date. Permit amendments come with a $3 fee; there is no cost to re-certify with the state.
“If there are any changes to your address, or you add a gun or take a gun off, they come in to see us anyways and we fill out the proper paperwork,” the sheriff said.
Hayner called the requirement another unfunded mandate.
“We’re pushing around a lot of papers,” he said. I don’t know if this is the right way to be using our resources because, essentially, this is affecting law-abiding citizens -- someone who isn’t trying to break the law anyway.”
Hayner said a lot of people are confused because pistol-permitting has always been done through the county sheriff’s office, and the re-certification is now going through state police. His office is fielding a number of calls, but the sheriff’s office is getting the bulk of them, he said.
“Naturally, because they’ve always called the county first, they're coming to us and asking questions,” he said, adding that county employees are seeking answers from the state. “There are certain things we haven’t gotten answers for.”
Zurlo and Hayner have been making the rounds to local gun clubs to clear up as much confusion as possible. They spoke to the Kaydeross Rod and Gun Club in Milton on Wednesday and were preparing to address the Galway Fish and Game Club on Thursday night.
Zurlo said one question he is often asked is why the re-certification form asks for driver’s license information.
“I’m telling them that they’re just pairing the information on the license to the information they have in the database with the pistol permit,” he said.
He also hears questions about why the state is requiring the re-certification — “I tell them it’s part of the SAFE Act legislation” — and why the state is establishing its own database.
The sheriff doesn’t have a great answer for that one.
“We have a database, too, so all of the information we have in our county is made accessible to the state police,” Zurlo said.
Hayner said the state is trying to build a cleaner database, but that there’s also confusion over how much information from the state’s database the county will be able to access.
“They told us as recently as last week that there’s going to be some information shared with us,” he said. “We don’t know if it’s all going to be shared with us, so we don’t know if their database is going to be better than ours.”
Zurlo rehashed his reasons for being against the SAFE Act, which was passed in the wake of the devastating Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December of 2012.
“It’s going after the law-abiding citizens compared to the criminals,” Zurlo said. “I think it was done without necessity and without getting feedback from various sheriffs. There’s parts of it that we’re dealing with, and this recertification is another part.”
HOW TO RE-CERTIFY
Questions? Call 1-855-529-4867.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: A forum on the state’s new 5-year recertification for pistol permits
WHEN: 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7
WHERE: Milton Community Center, 310 Northline Road