March 30, 2014

Editorial: Letters welcome, by authors only

The organization SCOPE is encouraging people to submit Letters to the Editor that they didn’t actually write, a tactic with which we take issue.

SCOPE is the Shooters Committee on Political Education, led by Stephen Aldstadt, which opposes the controversial New York SAFE Act.

We have no issue with the group or its intent. And we welcome letters on all sides of every issue. But we insist that the writer has actually penned it.

SCOPE, on the other hand, is encouraging people to sign their names on letters of protest that demand that Gov. Cuomo apologize for saying “that those with traditional values and those who oppose his disastrous NY SAFE Act have no place in New York state.”

The letter goes on to say that “Newspaper editors across the state should be alarmed at the governor’s comments and join SCOPE in demanding an apology from Governor Cuomo.”

What we are alarmed at is an organization that suggests that its supporters submit letters with their individual signatures and addresses, as if they had written the missives themselves.

SCOPE has a section on its website where you can find the form letter, check which newspaper you want it sent to, add your name and address and submit it electronically.

About five or six of those letters have arrived in the Press-Republican newsroom so far. All were alike, word for word.

All were returned to the sender with a note saying that we would be more than happy to publish letters of opposition to the SAFE Act, as long as they were written in their own words.

We will even supply some information on the SAFE Act so people can be informed writers. New York’s law, according to state legislative information:

• Bans possession of high-capacity magazines.

• Requires ammunition dealers to do background checks.

• Creates a registry of assault weapons.

• Requires designated mental-health professionals who believe a patient made a credible threat of harming others to report it.

• Requires that gun thefts be reported within 24 hours.

• Broadens the definition of assault weapons.

- Requires background checks for all gun sales, except to members of the seller’s immediate family.

• Requires that guns be “safely stored” from any household member who has been convicted of a felony or domestic-violence crime, has been involuntarily committed or is under an order of protection.

• Bans the Internet sale of assault weapons.

• Increases sentences for gun crimes.

• Ups the sentence for shooting first-responders to life in prison without parole.

• Limits handgun owners from being identified publicly, if they opt in within 120 days.

• Requires people who have pistol permits and assault-weapon registrations to renew them at least every five years.

• Allows police to seize a firearm without a warrant or court order if there is probable cause that someone is mentally unstable or intends to use the weapon to commit a crime.

We encourage letters both for and against the SAFE Act. We just ask that you write them yourselves.

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