County fires back at gun law

JOHNSTOWN – A group of Fulton County supervisors backs Sheriff Thomas Lorey and more than 50 other sheriffs across the state in pressing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to revisit and modify New York state’s new gun laws.

The county’s Public Safety Committee on Monday unanimously approved a resolution supporting the New York State Sheriffs’ Association’s position, in which 52 county sheriffs from across the state said parts of the New York SAFE Act are too broad, limiting and difficult for gun owners, businesses and police officials to understand – a position echoed around Fulton County, Lorey said.

“The bulk of Fulton County seems to be dead-set against the new law,” he said.

He said the sheriffs are hoping lawmakers will consider their feedback and adjust parts of the legislation.

Montgomery County Sheriff Michael Amato and Hamilton County Sheriff Karl Abrams said they expect to ask their county supervisors for similar resolutions. They were among the sheriffs helping to craft the letter to Cuomo and a position statement last week while attending the association’s winter training conference at the Desmond Hotel in Albany.

“I don’t know how many hours we even spent debating it, but it’s very important,” Amato said.

Abrams said the conference agenda already had been set before the law was passed, but the sheriffs used all of their down time, before dawn and late at night, to present a united front.

Supervisors also are united in their opposition of certain parts of the law, as well as the haste with which it passed through the Senate and Assembly, without committee meetings or public hearings.

“It’s going to turn honest people dishonest,” said Northampton Supervisor and committee Chairwoman Linda Kemper. “The general public that has these guns are not going to run around doing these mass shootings.”

Repeating the concerns of many gun-rights advocates, the association says the ban on assault weapons will affect the owners of legally owned, legitimate hunting weapons and won’t have any effect on criminals’ access to them.

The law’s restriction on ammunition are unclear and confusing to business owners, the association says, adding that reducing the legal ammunition magazine capacity also will only have an effect on legal gun owners.

“We believe based on our years of law enforcement experience that this will not reduce gun violence,” the position statement says.

The statement also addresses what Lorey calls an “absolutely crazy” provision that redirects pistol-permit status and some firearms registrations from the Sheriff’s Department to state police.

“All records should be maintained at the local, and not the state level,” the association says. “This information should be accessible to those who are responsible for initial investigation of permit applications.”

The association also notes the legislation doesn’t require sheriffs to go door to door to confiscate weapons – and they won’t.

“We have to convince the masses of people that we’re not going to go against the Constitution,” Lorey told supervisors. “We’re not going house to house, going through your gun locker and seeing what you’ve got.”

The sheriff’s association says it supports some provisions of the law: giving permit-holders the option of keeping their information private; first-degree murder charges against those who kill first responders; background checks for private sales and mental health checks for permits; and stiffer penalties for illegal use of weapons or firearms owners who do not secure them.

“I think there has to be a more strict compliance with weapons in the home and kids getting access to them,” said Gloversville 1st Ward Supervisor Richard Handy.

“There’s a portion of the law that should be covered by common sense,” Lorey responded.

Handy replied, “Some people don’t have common sense.”

By -