Press-Republican

March 19, 2013

Guns of Essex County debated

BY LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — More than 90 people turned out to tell the Essex County Board of Supervisors the State SAFE Act needs to be repealed.

The gun-control measure was highly opposed by the majority of those who packed the Old County Courthouse on Monday night, many of them members of local sportsmen’s clubs.

And the Board of Supervisors decided they also want it gone.

OPPOSED LIABILITY

After hearing from those present, the board voted 15 to 2 to ask for repeal of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, and unanimously oppose proposed legislation that would require gun owners to have $1 million liability insurance policies.

Only Supervisors Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) and Daniel Connell (D-Westport) voted against repeal, with Supervisor Randy Preston (I-Wilmington) absent.

‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL’

Out of the 13 people who spoke at the meeting, 10 wanted the act repealed and three advocated amending it instead.

The first speaker, Donald Sage of Schroon Lake, is president of the Essex County League of Fish and Game Clubs.

“There are counties who said they will not enforce it, and I would encourage Essex County to do the same,” he said.

“Do not waste any money on this unconstitutional law. This is just the first step to confiscating your guns.”

Many of those in the room applauded after Sage spoke.

Veteran Derek Sprague of Moriah said enhanced background checks won’t find many of those who are mentally ill.

“Most atrocities associated with gun violence are committed by the mentally ill. “The SAFE Act issued by Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo is in violation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution,” he continued. “In order for evil to prevail, good men and women must do nothing.”

‘NO EMERGENCY’

Ronald Jackson of Essex, the chairman of the Essex County Republican Party, said the act is not a political issue.

“It is becoming an upstate-downstate issue, and that is unfortunate. Not everything in there is bad; the way it was passed was bad. There was no emergency that required instant passage.”

Jackson said there aren’t enough votes in either the State Assembly or Senate to repeal the law, so they’ll have to rely on court challenges to its constitutionality to strike it down.

OPPOSES REPEAL

Lorraine Duvall of Keene said she and several Keene and Willsboro residents have discussed the SAFE Act, and believe the county is acting in haste to call for its repeal.

“(We) call for tabling of the resolution demanding repeal of the SAFE Act,” she said. “Revise the resolution to amend rather than repeal the law. Bring people to talk about different aspects of the law, rather than one aspect of the law.”

Some of those at the session booed Duvall as she left the podium, prompting Douglas to call for order.

Harrison Caner of Keene said he supports some aspects of the SAFE Act.

“I don’t think the ability to have a weapon for other than hunting or personal protection is necessary. I don’t think citizens should have assault rifles, period. Let’s do something that cuts down on the availability of these multiple-shot machine-pistol weapons.”

‘START FRESH’

John Sharkey of Ticonderoga said the law was passed without any public debate.

“It (the U.S. Constitution) keeps getting shredded and shredded and shredded.”

When the speakers had finished, Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield) said the State Legislature did not follow due process before passing the SAFE Act.

“This resolution (to repeal) was not done in haste. We allowed our constituents to come and speak. The SAFE Act infringes on my rights and the rights of everyone else. I will not abide by this. It should be repealed and start fresh.”

Before the vote to ask for repeal, Supervisor Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) moved to table the resolution, and it failed, 15 to 2 — with only Hatch and Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) in support.

He was one of two supervisors to vote against repeal.

“I feel strongly about this issue. It’s more important to me to vote my conscience. I would vote in a second to amend this (law); I will not vote to repeal it.

“When is the next tragedy going to happen in our schools?”

‘SYMBOLIC’

Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey (D-Minerva) said she’s heard from those on both sides of the issue.

“Our vote tonight is symbolic. SAFE Act or no SAFE Act, there is no absolute safety. There are some good things in it; there are some things needing correction.”

Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting gave a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on the SAFE Act before the public comment portion of the meeting.

Cutting said the purpose of the act is to keep felons and mental patients from getting guns, and ban high-capacity magazines and assault rifles.

“We need to keep guns out of the hands of people who will create havoc with them,” Cutting said.

But the law goes too far, he said.

“We need to speak out and be heard on this law, and work within our system in order to affect change to achieve a document that does what it’s supposed to do.”

JOINS MANY OTHERS

Franklin and Clinton County legislatures have already passed resolutions in opposition to the SAFE Act, as have more than 50 other counties.

Under the board’s weighted vote system, the resolution to repeal passed 2,552 to 268, with Preston’s 101 votes absent.

Email Lohr McKinstry: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com