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February 2013 Column - Erie County Opposes SAFE Act, calls for repeal, revision


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Personal opinions aside, the process surrounding the passage of the NY SAFE Act of 2013 was a disgrace. It lacked transparency and proper procedure. And, in just two days, officials from the Senate and Assembly, along with the governor, forced through a major piece of legislation that, at the end of the day, doesn’t address the major problems associated with gun violence but instead impedes on the rights of law abiding gun owners.

Much to the disgust of residents across the state, the item was pushed through without time for full review or resident input. The senate voted late in the day on Jan. 14, followed the next day by a rubber-stamp vote in the Assembly and the governor signed the legislation soon after. There was absolutely no opportunity for you to contact your state representative to express your opposition or your support for the proposal. The voice of the people was completely silent.

Not only was the procedure inadequate but the context of the legislation falls far short of what I would expect in a piece of Legislation entitled SAFE Act. In addition to the procedural problems, the law infringes on the right to keep and bear arms. Furthermore, the legislation punishes law abiding registered gun owners while having little effect on those that use guns illegally.

Further review highlights another major issue: many of the definitions used in the law are broad and left open for interpretation. This leaves current gun owners confused about what the law means to them and their legally obtained guns. Additionally, many of the proposals in this legislation do nothing to reduce gun violence, but inhibit the abilities of law abiding citizens to protect their families and participate in recreational sportsmen activities.

Recognizing that the law has many faults, I have joined my colleagues in the Minority Caucus of the Erie County Legislature to propose a resolution that calls for the repeal of the SAFE Act and encourages significant revisions be made to a new law. Should new, common sense legislation be proposed, it must go through the proper procedure, including adequate time for resident input. The focus of any legislation must be on implementing stronger and tougher provisions to those that illegally obtain guns and use to harm other individuals.

I am encouraging all my colleagues in the County Legislature to join together in a unified voice to tell Albany to repeal the SAFE Act. I believe there is an opportunity to address gun violence, but in its first attempt, our state leaders missed that opportunity.

Aside from the concerns I have with the SAFE Act, there are provisions I support, including addressing mental health issues and tougher penalties for illegal use of a gun. I also strongly support the protection of personal information of pistol permit holders. After a downstate newspaper requested and obtained the names of all permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties, they printed them online, pinpointing permit holders on a map. This was extremely dangerous for many reasons. Concerned the same situation may occur here in Erie County, I submitted a resolution calling on the County Clerk to withhold the release permit holders personal information. The issue has been addressed in the SAFE Act. Pistol permit holders can opt-out and protect their information from being released by completing a form which is now available on my website, www.erie.gov/legislature/district10.

My colleagues and I are calling on state leaders to immediately repeal the SAFE Act and follow proper procedure to introduce a revised law that effectively addresses issues associated with gun violence and does not impede on the rights of legal gun owners. Locally, Assemblymen Mickey Kearns and David DiPietro and Senator Patrick Gallivan, who represent portions of Erie County District 10, opposed the SAFE Act and I want to thank them and the other members of the WNY delegation who voted against the law.