NY SAFE Act has spawned several debates; Rockland Legislature to vote on gun resolutions Tuesday

BY DYLAN SKRILOFF

At Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee hearing a resolution introduced by Leg. Chair Harriet Cornell (D) urging the state and federal government to support numerous gun control and mental health provisions was passed unanimously. It will be discussed at the full Legislature on Tuesday.

The most controversial points in Cornell’s resolution are support for reimposition of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban and a closure of the so-called gun show loophole. Cornell’s resolution cites long-debunked claims that the loophole causes 40 percent of gun transactions to take place without a background check. She also asks for more school spending on guidance counselors and other services.

Cornell’s proposals, which were borrowed from a letter written by a school superintendents’ group, are as follows:

  • Provide funding to schools and communities for adequate mental health, social, and guidance services and resources for the purpose of prevention, support, and response;
  • Restore community funding for youth and school resource officers for stronger school community partnerships;
  • Prevent individuals convicted of violent crimes – misdemeanors or felonies – even when these were committed when they were juveniles, from being able to purchase or own a gun (Brady Bill – Section 922N);
  • Prevent individuals with mental health issues from purchasing or owning a gun (Brady Bill – Section 922N)
  • Reinstitute the ban on the sale, import, transfer, and ownership of assault weapons;
  • End the Gun Show loophole that enables 40% of gun purchases to be made without a background check (sic);
  • Punish irresponsible gun dealers (Dealers may not sell any new handgun unless it is listed in the state Department of Justice roster of handguns certified for sale)

An unanimous vote in committee does not mean the same legislators will vote for the final resolution. It is merely a referendum on further discussion.

Four of five parts of a resolution introduced by Leg. Ed Day (R), Chris Carey (R) and Jay Hood (D) also passed unanimously. Incredibly, the state failed to exempt law enforcement from the law, so even active duty cops are in violation of the NY SAFE Act if changes are not made. The four planks that moved through committee are:

  • Active and retired law enforcement personnel will be exempt from provisions restricting magazine capacity to no more than seven rounds;
  • Common sense exemptions for law enforcement training should be included in sale of ammunition;
  • Definition of assault weapon is too broad and needs to be more clearly defined based on its function instead of its features, so that the Act does not impact legitimate weapons used for hunting, target shooting and self defense;
  • Local law enforcement should be fully included in review and implementation of school safety plans, rather than leaving it to state agencies

A fifth plank of the resolution was deleted because it contradicted another resolution also introduced by Jay Hood, as well as Alden Wolfe (D). The subject of that resolution is whether the paperwork for the new mandatory five-year pistol permit renewal process should be at the local or state level.

The NY Sheriffs’ Association’s opinion is that the pistol permit process should be handled at the local level, and so Leg. Ed Day included that in his resolution.

But County Clerk Paul Piperato and others do not want that responsibility, calling it an unfunded mandate. So Hood and Wolfe authored a contradicting resolution asking the state to keep it as is and legislature removed the previous plank from Hood’s other resolution.

Hood said he the Clerk’s Office may have had to hire three new positions just to carry out enforcement of the database if it’s controlled on a local level.

In the NY SAFE Act the paperwork and administration is delegated to the state police, who will now be in charge of renewing the permits every five  years. They will be budgeted over $30 million annually to maintain the database. Many lawmakers such as Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt (R-Greenwood Lake) are calling for the repeal of this clause, calling it an unnecessary tax burden all in the name of tracking residents.

Currently Rockland County does not update its database on a regular interval as NY SAFE mandates because it would be too expensive, Clerk Piperato said. He noted Westchester does update the database and spends considerable money on detectives to track down permit holders who have changed address without reporting it to the county, or who have died.

A part of the NY SAFE Act that Piperato would like to see revised is the permit privacy opt-out process. Currently, Governor Cuomo has created an opt-out mechanism that Piperato said is tying up his phone lines. Any pistol permit holder who wishes for his records to be private must fill out a form and have it processed through a court.

This will, of course, take time and money. Money the state and counties don’t have.