By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — MALONE — County clerks’ offices are fielding hundreds of calls from gun owners about New York’s new firearms law and requests for pistol-permit applications.
The Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE Act) law got State Senate approval Jan. 14 then a majority Assembly vote and signature by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 15.
Among other requirements, it bans assault weapons and limits ammunition magazines to no more than seven rounds, requires background checks on all gun purchases and strengthens the penalties against those with illegal guns.
Kip Cassavaw, acting county clerk in Franklin County, said his office is
answering 100 calls a day from owners unsure of “what’s legal and not legal” and what the new law means concerning their weapons.
“We’ve had quite a run on applications, and a lot of people are buying guns and adding them to their permits,” he said. “We’re passing out five to 10 applications a day.”
There have also been a lot of questions about the re-certification that will now be required every five years.
“We’ve been extremely busy, and we’ve been referring a lot of them to the State Police,” Cassavaw said. “But the State Police say they don’t have any details on the law.”
LEGISLATORS VOTED NO
Intended to prevent convicted felons and dangerous mental-health patients from obtaining guns, the legislation was developed in response to such tragedies as the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut and the shooting deaths of two firefighters in Webster, near Rochester.
The three lawmakers from the North Country, Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury), Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru), were unanimous in voting against the legislation.
Little and Stec both called action on the measure premature; Stec said in a statement there was a “lack of time for both legislators and the public to read the particulars of the legislation.”
Some aspects of it, Little said earlier, are good, such as requiring people who are a danger to themselves or others to get help and increased penalties for illegal weapons possession.
Constituents who contacted her, she said, were overwhelmingly against passage of the bill.
Dick DeCosse, owner of Dick’s Country Store, Music Oasis and Gun City in Churubusco, said his customers are also concerned about the new gun law and its ramifications.
“Naturally, they are looking for more information and trying to figure out what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “A little more information is starting to come out this week.”
“Personally, I don’t think that this will really have any effect on crime,” DeCosse said.
“Basically, the bad guys get what they want, and the rest of us are paying the price.
“They aren’t going to turn them (guns) in, and they aren’t going to register them,” he said. “They’re criminals. What do they care?”
He said the State Police have been helpful as far as explaining the new law, “but they didn’t have any advance notice of this either.”
‘NOT MUCH TO TELL’
Essex and Clinton County officials are also seeing increased interest from gun owners with the new law in place.
Clinton County Clerk’s Office Records Clerk Mary Lavorando said the office has also had a number of calls about the new law, but there isn’t much to tell at this point.
“Mostly, they want to apply (for pistol permits), and they are asking about the new law, but not everything went into effect that first day,” she said. “I tell them about it if I know, but I don’t want to give anyone false information.”
Lavorando said many owners are inquiring about pistol permits and the applications.
“Everybody wants one,” she said.
“We’ve got the same thing, and they’re driving me crazy,” laughed Nancy McLean, the pistol-permit clerk in the Essex County Clerk’s Office.
She said her agency has had many calls and plenty of people dropping in to amend their permits and find some answers.
“They’re asking questions about the new law and how we interpret it, and applications have been flying out the window,” she said.
“We’ve been telling people as soon as things settle down and we have an interpretation of the law, we’ll be putting it in the newspapers, on the radio and on TV to let them know,” McLean said.
Cassavaw said his office processes the permit applications in Franklin County, but State Police conduct the background checks on potential owners and those re-certifying, giving them additional work.
“It’s really preliminary of what our obligation will be,” he said. “But apparently, it’s another unfunded mandate.”
Find information about the SAFE Act at: http://www.governor.ny.gov/2013/gun
Email Denise A. Raymo: