Local reps shoot down gun law

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By Joe Moskowitz
In rural upstate New York, guns are considered a way of life. In urban and suburban downstate, many see guns as a way of death, especially after the tragedies in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado.

Last Monday and very early Tuesday morning, the state legislature did something it rarely does. It acted quickly and passed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sweeping gun control law.

The New York Safe Act is the strictest measure of its kind in the United States. With just a few hours of deliberation, the upstate/downstate divide became evident as the Republican controlled state senate passed the bill by a 43-18 vote with several GOP lawmakers from Long Island siding with the Democrats.

And the bill sailed through the overwhelmingly Democratic Assembly by a 104-43 margin.
All of the lawmakers who represent the Catskill Mountain News circulation area voted against the bill. All of them are Republicans. Assemblyman Cliff Crouch and Senator John Bonacic, also Republicans, no longer represent this area, but opposed the measure.

Republican Assemblyman Pete Lopez said of the law, “Will someone’s rights be diminished? I have grave concerns about the bill.”

Senator James Seward said, “These reactionary laws force new onerous regulations on those who meticulously obey the law and infringe on second amendment rights. Further we can’t afford to place good paying jobs at a long steady employer in my district, Remington Arms, in jeopardy.” The Remington facility in Ilion employs about 1,000 people. The community has a population of about 8,000.

While Crouch no longer represents this area, his response is representative of the sentiments expressed by many we have spoken with.

“I am surprised to see this legislation come before the assembly in the manner it did. This is not open government. This is typical Albany having a knee-jerk reaction to an unfortunate tragedy that we should otherwise be having a meaningful, healthy and passionate debate about it in front of the public with hearings and proper vetting.”

Regardless of the process it is now the law of the land, or at least much of it is. There are portions that are being phased in. Some of the elements of the law that pertain to dealers won’t go into effect until 2014.

The following are some of the highlights of New York Safe Act:
1. Further restrict assault weapons to define them by a single feature, such as a pistol grip, instead of two features as under the old law.
2. Make unsafe storage a misdemeanor.
3. Establish a police registry of all assault weapons.
4. Establish a state registry for all private sales with a background check conducted by a licensed dealer.
5. Require a therapist who believes a mental health patient made a credible threat to report the threat to a mental health director who in turn would report it to the state.
6. Ban Internet sales of assault weapons.
7. Require dealers to conduct background checks on people who purchase ammunition and to establish an electronic database.
8. Restrict gun magazines to seven bullets. The national standard is currently seven.
9. Increase penalties for crimes committed while using a gun and for having a gun on school property.
10. Increase penalties for using guns against first responders.
These are just some of the provisions of the law. For the full list, the governor’s office has created a website at www.nysafeact.com.