PLATTSBURGH — Clinton County legislators listened to constituents and unanimously supported a resolution calling for the state’s new gun law to be repealed.
“I think we have a greater chance of being heard if this gets unanimous support,” Legislator Harry McManus (D-Area 1, Champlain) told his fellow legislators before Wednesday night’s vote.
The resolution the legislature approved called for a repeal of the law known as the NY SAFE Act of 2013, and or amending some provisions of it.
The law was quickly approved by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 15. It calls for much stricter definitions of assault weapons and a ban on those firearms; requires mental-health professionals to report to local officials when they suspect a person may engage in conduct that could cause serious harm to themselves or others; and limits the capacity of gun magazines, among other provisions.
The law has since sparked wide debate across the state, especially in Upstate where many are opposed.
As of Tuesday, 51 of 62 counties passed resolutions opposing the law or asking for revisions.
On Monday, about 40 people attended the legislature’s Public Safety Committee meeting and strongly asked legislators to support repeal of the law.
The committee agreed, changing their initial resolution from asking for reconsideration to asking for repeal and or an amendment to some provisions.
More than 100 showed up Wednesday night at the legislature’s regular meeting to once again voice opposition. In about 90 minutes, two dozen people spoke against the law and two spoke in favor of it.
Gary Barrett of Plattsburgh said cars and alcohol kill more people than guns do each year, and yet no background investigation is required to purchase those items.
“Maybe we’ll need to do background checks to buy gasoline,” he said.
Ed Duda of Champlain said the new law is far too prohibitive for law-abiding gun owners.
“With so many restrictions even the new pope could wind up getting arrested in New York,” Duda said.
Mike McCorry of Dannemora said the law was not approved the by state with the proper input from citizens.
“This is about due process and full disclosure,” he said.
“This is about how this was done.”
Mary Vann, who has owned Vann’s Gun Shop in Plattsburgh for 45 years, said the law will do more than just infringe on gunowner’s rights.
“The amount of guns I can sell will go down from about 100 to about five,” she said.
“There will be less sales and this will affect the economy too.”
Paul Johnston of Peru said he supported the new state law. He noted that an individual in New Hampshire decided to oppose the government by shooting law enforcement and justice officials several years ago, which is not what the second amendment allowed for.
“I don’t think anyone in this room would do that,” Johnston said.
“But we need restrictions that would prevent others from doing so.”
Mary Alice Shemo of Plattsburgh said she also supported the law, although she said some parts of it may need to be changed.
“My biggest fear as a grandmother is that my grandchildren will go do school one day, and not return,” she said.
“People think this law will take away your guns. That’s not the case. It is to get certain weapons under control.”
Legislator Sam Dyer (D-Area 3, Beekmantown) said hearing from the public was enlightening.
“This is good. This is politics at its best,” he said.
Sara Rowden (D-Area 4, Town of Plattsburgh) said she has heard from many in the county that do support the new state law. But she said she was concerned about the mental-health portion of the law in that it could prevent people from seeking help.
“I don’t see this law solving this issue,” she said.
Robert Butler (R-Area 6, Saranac) said the state should have listened to the people from the beginning.
“You don’t just ram something down people’s throats,” he said.
“That’s not the way it is supposed to be.”
Jonathan Beach (R-Area 2, Altona) said he wanted to see the law repealed, but the revised resolution does give state lawmakers options.
“If you (state) are too much of coward to get rid of it, then at least fix it,” Beach said.
The resolution was approved by a 9 to 0 vote with Legislator Robert Heins (R-Area 10, City of Plattsburgh) absent.
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