Tioga County Legislature protests SAFE Act process
The NY SAFE Act, with its draconian firearms restrictions, has incited heated debate and a public outcry from law-abiding gun owners across New York. Albany's actions outraged many citizens of rural Tioga County, which has a long history of hunting and self-reliance. The Tioga County Legislature spoke for them on Feb. 12, 2013 by passing a resolution protesting the process used to pass the NY SAFE Act and provisions in the law.
"The right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed as an individual right under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution," the resolution stated, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms for defense of life, liberty, and property is regarded as an inalienable right by the people of Tioga County."
The resolution also criticized the extraordinary process used to rush the law through the state legislature, and questions whether anyone could have ready the NY SAFE Act's 60 provisions in the hour allotted to them before the vote.
"In our opinion, there was no reason for the Governor to use a message of necessity to bring this bill to vote immediately and bypass the three day maturation process for all legislation," the county's resolution said, referring to Governor Andrew Cuomo only by his title.
The resolution also reminds state representatives that they are, like the Tioga County Legislature, sworn to uphold the Constitution. "The Tioga County Legislature considers such laws to be unnecessary and beyond lawful legislative authority granted to our State representatives," the county legislature declared, and requested the repeal of sections of the NY SAFE Act which infringe on the Second Amendment.
Tioga County Legislative Chairman Dale Weston said the he believed the NY SAFE Act to be a "knee-jerk reaction" to the Sandy Hook tragedy, but Weston was more critical of the process than the law. "If it was debated normally, we could live with any decision, but the haste in making this decision is the problem," Weston said.
Tioga County Sheriff Gary Howard said that New York already has laws prohibiting fully automatic firearms and large capacity magazines for ammunition. "I don't believe there needs to be any change to current gun control laws because it's not the honest people who commit crimes," Howard said. Howard also questioned the law's requirement that pistol permits be renewed every five years, fearing the added burden to his already thinly stretched staff.
"There are around ten thousand pistol permits in the county, who's going to do all those recertifications?" Howard asked. "It's going to filter down as another unfunded mandate," he concluded.
When asked if he would refuse to enforce stricter gun control measures that are the talk of Washington, Howard was cautious. "You mean confiscation? How would you enforce that? I'm not going to go door-to-door. They need to take a step back. There's some good stuff in the law, but they need to talk to people who know something before they enact these laws, they need to consult us," Howard said, meaning law enforcement professionals.