BY LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Gun owners opposed to the New York State SAFE Act packed the Essex County Board of Supervisors chambers Monday.
Many were members of the Essex County Fish and Game Club, which had encouraged attendance at the session in the Old County Courthouse.
Bruno Mazzotte of Moriah, a retired state correction officer, took the podium to tell supervisors that gun owners are counting on their elected officials to back them in their position against the act, which they want the State Legislature to repeal.
“It seems like law-abiding citizens don’t have any rights anymore,” he said. “They (state legislators) want to change the background check. They can’t enforce the one we have now.”
The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, passed Jan. 15, will limit ammunition magazines to no more than seven rounds, or 10 if the magazine is pre-existing. It also, among other details, requires background checks for all gun sales and ammunition purchases.
The ammunition requirement takes effect Jan. 15, 2014, and the magazine rule, April 15 of this year.
Last week, the Board of Supervisors Ways and Means Committee defeated a resolution offered by Supervisor Ronald Moore (R-North Hudson) that would have supported the State Sheriff’s Association stance to amend parts of the SAFE Act.
Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said he thought most supervisors who voted nay wanted more time to study the new law, so he appointed a SAFE Act Subcommittee consisting of County Attorney Daniel Manning III, County Manager Daniel Palmer and Supervisors Moore, Margaret Bartley (D-Elizabethtown) and Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield).
Morrow said the subcommittee will meet at 11:30 a.m. Monday, March 11, to go over the SAFE Act and recommend the county’s position.
“Hopefully, we can agree on a resolution,” Morrow said. “Supervisor Moore has worked on a resolution; I have worked on a resolution.
“Mine is to repeal the New York State SAFE Act, not amend it,” he said. “As an avid hunter, I am totally against the New York State SAFE Act. All that does is make innocent gun owners into criminals.”
Douglas has called a special Board of Supervisors meeting for March 18 to vote on the subcommittee’s resolution, with a time to be set later. Sheriff Richard Cutting will also give a presentation on the act at that session.
“We will not let it linger on, kick it under the rug; that will not happen,” Morrow said.
He said a resolution will not be done in haste, either.
“If we did that, we’d be just like the state — voting on something we know nothing about.”
Moore said the SAFE Act was passed too quickly by the State Legislature.
“It should be repealed; it should have due process,” he said. “Our (state) representatives should have the opportunity to debate.”
The North Country’s state lawmakers — Sen. Betty Little, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey and Assemblyman Daniel Stec — all voted against the law. Stec has started a petition to have it repealed.
At Monday’s county meeting, Win Belanger of Willsboro, who said he has several guns, including an assault rifle, told the supervisors he’s against the SAFE Act.
“The law is needed, but not the present law and not the way it was pushed through,” he said.
He said he’ll have to give up two pistols under the SAFE Act because the clips can’t be changed to hold fewer than 10 rounds.
“Let them (legislators) pass a good law, not a law that got passed in the middle of the night without ample discussion,” Belanger said.
The Franklin County Legislature is also planning to take a position on the act and will be holding two sessions, yet to be announced, to invite constituents to weigh in on it.
Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) said the Democrat-controlled State Assembly is unlikely to overturn the SAFE Act any time soon.
“The practicality of having that repealed by the New York State Assembly is pretty dim. I think our best chance is to fight the act (in court) and have it overturned on constitutionality.”
The new law was in response to mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and elsewhere, but Cutting said gun control is a very complicated issue.
“A turkey hunter’s shotgun, we’re going to consider that an assault weapon,” he said. “We’re not addressing the propensity for violence behind these acts by someone who is willing to commit violence on another human being.”
Cutting said he could not recall a crime in his jurisdiction committed by a legal sidearm owner.
“This law, unfortunately, focuses on that (legal ownership). The guy who steals the gun is not going to register that.”
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