Monday, January 16th, 2017

Guns the big issue at County Board meeting

At Thursday’s (2/21) County Board of Supervisors’ meeting in Lyons, several local residents signed up to speak on their opposition to the State’s SAFE Act and address the County’s resolution to send their formal opposition to the law as well. County officials also chimed in.

John Piczkur of Palmyra (Wayne County SCOPE Chapter Chairman) noted that the New York’s SAFE ACT “was pushed into law by an irrational government,” He denegrated the Governor and New York State legislators for being irresponsible and too quick to act. Piczkur noted that it (The SAFE Act) does not apply to law abiding gun owners, as they would be made to comply, but criminals will could get their guns and ammo, with no regard for the law. “We have the right to bear arms.”

Don Smith of Ontario thanked the Board of Supervisors for their stand in sending a letter of opposition to the Governor. “You came together to write this resolution and we appreciate you speaking out for us.” Don said “We need to show people that this SAFE Act is an intrusion, and in the end is a scheme to raise revenues, as we will see down the road.” He stated that the law should be repealed, or at very least, amended.

John Smith of Ontario, a retired Law Enforcement Officer, urged sensible opposition to the law. “The criminal use of guns is a big part of violent behavior…but, at core, it is the behavior of individuals, not the guns. Behavior…not guns!… The affect of this law is intolerable to law abiding citizens, he suggested. He felt it was a hastily considered document, with Albany violating their oath of office in passing this law.

John Foro of The Town of Rose noted that when he received his pistol permit years ago, he was told by the judge that it was good forever, unless it was revoked for some reason. This law, he noted, which mentions that the permit must be renewed every five years, breaks that promise of a lifetime permit. “Many businesses – small gun shops, and many gun owners will be forced to move out of state.”

Gail Allen of Ontario read a letter than she is sending to the Governor and State Legislators, asking why the voters opinions were not considered, or even asked for. “Why the rush?” she asked.

New York State Assemblyman Bob Oaks of Macedon addressed the Board and the public at the meeting. Oaks, who indicated that he had voted NO on the SAFE ACT, said that “Your response and reaction to this legislation should have come before it occurred. This is not part of our legislative process.” Oaks continued “When you look at second amendment rights, this law takes a negative shot at law abiding citizens. It is not apparent that this piece of legislation would have New York any safer. I thank the Board of Supervisors for putting this on their agenda and sending their opposition to it,” said Oaks.
Aside from the residents who spoke before the Board voted on their Opposition, Supervisors Bob Plant of Walworth and Steve Leroy of Sodus asked that the County Clerk, County Sheriff and Director of Community Services (Director of Mental Health) give their opinions on the law and how it would affect each of their departments.

Sheriff Barry Virts spoke on a few items in the SAFE Act that he could agree with, involving safe storage of weapons, requirement of NICS checks for private gun sales, and enhanced penalties for killing of emergency first responders. But he was very vocal on the provisions that make no sense or take right away from law abiding citizens. “I believe that the new definition of assault weapons is too broad, and prevents the possession of many firearms that are legitimately used for hunting, target shooting and self-defense. I am convinced that only law abiding gun owners will be affected by these new provisions, while criminals will still have and use whatever weapons they can unlawfully obtain.” On the five year recertification for pistol permits, Virts said, “Pistol permit information should be maintained in one file at the county level, and forwarded to a statewide database for law enforcement use as it currently is.

Any additional costs to maintain this information at the county level should be funded by the state.”

As for the State’s method of passing the act:”It is my view that anytime government decides it is necessary or desirable to test the boundaries of a constitutional right that it should only be done with caution and with great respect for those constitutional boundaries. I further believe it should only be done if the benefit to be gained is so great and certain that it far outweighs the damage done by the constriction of individual liberty. Unfortunately the process used to adopt this act did not permit the mature development of arguments on either side of the debate, and thus many of the stakeholders in this important issue are left feeling ignored by their government. In closing, appropriate people should have guns and inappropriate people should not.” Virts stated.

Mental Health Director Jim Haigh (Pictured top) made the public and the Supervisors aware that only about 4% of the mentally ill commit violent acts, and they are 11 times more likely to be victims. The part of the SAFE act that affects his department would require mental health professionals to make a determination if a person is a threat to himself or others. It might well drive those needing mental health care from receiving such care.

County Clerk Mike Jankowski said this is a bad law, and the process is bad. Opt Out forms and Foil requests will make more work for an overworked department. “I am most bothered that the Act empowers State Police to confiscate a weapon from a citizen, deemed to be mentally ill and dangerous, and yet there is no place on the form for a judge to sign. The sentiments of the County Clerks in the area are the same. “We are not alone – 27 other Counties have also opposed this law.

I have to remind everyone of this quote by Sam Adams, one of our founding fathers, who said: “Let us remember that if we suffer tamely a lawless attack upon our liberty, we encourage it, and involve others in our doom.”

A resolution “Opposing the Process of Enactment and Certain Provisions contained in the NY SAFE ACT” was later passed unanimously by the entire Board of Supervisors. One portion of that resolution stated:

“While there are some areas of the legislation that the Wayne County Board of Supervisors finds encouraging, such as the strengthening of Kendra’s Law and Mark’s Law, as well as privacy protections for certain pistol permit holders, by-and-large, we find the legislation does little more than negatively impact lawful gun ownership and the Wayne County Director of Community Services opposes any effort to shift responsibility to county government regarding registry detailed in the Governor’s SAFE Act. Such a change would amount to an unfunded mandate on county taxpayers… The Wayne County Board of Supervisors does hereby oppose and request the release of any legislation, including the Sections within the NY SAFE Act (Chapter 1 of Laws of 2013) which infringe upon the rights of the people to keep and bear arms.”