Measures target state’s new gun-control law

JOHNSTOWN – Local legislators are starting to take official measures to show their opposition to the state’s new gun-control law.

Fulton County supervisors this week unanimously agreed to endorse a law-enforcement position statement that calls the new regulations “unfair” and “overly restrictive.”

Meanwhile, Montgomery County supervisors are considering a similar resolution in opposition to the gun law, and state Assemblyman Marc Butler, who represents Fulton County, has filed legislation to change the law.

“I personally am totally opposed to the New York SAFE Act, and I’m opposed to all the people who voted for it,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman William Waldon of Johnstown, who said his colleagues were united in their hopes to fight the law.

The 1,500-word position statement was drafted and unanimously approved last month by 52 members of the New York State Sheriff’s Association, including Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey, Montgomery County Sheriff Michael Amato and Hamilton County Sheriff Karl Abrams.

The sheriffs said parts of the state’s new SAFE Act, which will track more purchases of firearms and ammunition and make some existing guns, magazines and clips illegal, are too broad, while other parts limit rights of legal gun owners. The entire law, which local lawmakers said was rushed through the state Senate and Assembly, is difficult for gun owners, businesses and even police officials to understand, the position says.

Two business days after the sheriffs approved the language, Lorey presented it to the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee, which unanimously approved it, setting up Monday’s vote by the full board. The Public Safety Committee in Montgomery County also passed a similar measure, and a resolution is under way in Hamilton County.

“I’m sure the other counties are going to step on board,” said board Vice Chairman Linda Kemper of Northampton, who chairs the county Public Safety Committee. “It might be a matter of what position they take or what parts of the sheriff’s association position they endorse, but [we] endorsed all their findings.”

Kemper said there was no debate among supervisors Monday – only widespread disgust for the law and the way it was passed.

“There was a lot of discussion, and a lot of it was about the process – that it was shoved through in the middle of the night behind closed doors,” she said, adding that even the most religious supervisors and the ones who don’t own guns were passionate about fighting the law.

“The big picture is big brother is taking over your personal rights, gaining everything you have a right to,” she said.

Lorey did not return a phone message seeking comment Wednesday and could not be reached this morning, but he said Monday at the Fulton County Republican Club’s Lincoln Day dinner that this is a big issue that won’t go away. He followed that up Tuesday with a short speech at a gun rally in Albany.

“I’ve got a simple message: I’m not coming to take your guns. Not today. Not ever,” he shouted through a megaphone, adding, “Fulton County is a come-and-take-it county, not a bend-over county.”

The supervisors’ resolution “demands that state legislators reconvene to appeal and/or amend” provisions of the law that “violate the rights of citizens as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”

Certified copies of the resolution will be forwarded to President Obama, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and all state senators and assemblyman.

“Residents of New York state deserve better from their elected representatives,” the resolution says.

Assemblyman Butler, R-Newport, filed legislation to change sections of the new state law.

The NY SAFE Act bans the sale of a variety of firearms that are classified as “assault weapons,” which includes several firearms made by the Remington Arms Co. in Ilion, Butler said in a news release.

He said the term “assault weapon” is arbitrary, and that firearms in the SAFE Act that fall in this category are misunderstood and unfairly made a target of the state legislation.

“While I would prefer to see a total repeal of the law, and will work toward that end, I feel this amendment would be an immediate and important step toward making this law fairer and more sensible,” Butler said. “Any law of this magnitude should have been the result of careful and thoughtful discussion and deliberation, rather than the hastily passed bill that New Yorkers now must live under.”

Butler’s bill would change language in the law that defines assault weapons. He argues the sporting firearms referred to resemble military assault weapons but differ in a number of ways.

“These guns are being banned for sale in New York because of the way they look, not because of their capabilities,” he said.

Butler’s bill would make legal features such as a pistol grip and a muzzle brake compensator, a thumbhole stock and a shroud attached to the barrel of a pistol.

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