OLEAN — Local representatives and gun rights officials denounced a flurry of new gun laws that passed the State Legislature on Tuesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday morning in a media availability with gun control advocates, offered his full support of the bills that focus on court orders against individuals perceived to be a threat to themselves or others, banning bump stocks and lengthening background check periods.
“The common-sense solution was always obvious, and the common-sense solution was always accepted by the majority of Americans — whether they were gun owners or non-gun owners,” the governor said. “No one wants to take guns from legal owners who are mentally healthy. We don’t want those who are mentally ill or past felons to have guns.”
State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, was adamant against many of the proposals.
“Today, New York City senators passed a series of bills that were unconstitutional, technically flawed and that will do nothing to make our communities or schools safer,” she said in a statement. “If they were serious about preventing school violence and keeping our children safe, they should have joined us in supporting a comprehensive school safety package we put forward as an amendment today.
“These common sense measures included providing schools with the resources to hire armed school resource officers, to make safety-related infrastructure improvements and increase the number of mental health professionals on staff to identify and help at-risk students before problems occur. New York City legislators put politics ahead of student safety and voted the amendment down,” she added. “For several years I have sponsored the Kendra’s Law Improvement Act which would strengthen this law through several provisions aimed at closing gaps in the mental health system. The bill has passed the Senate repeatedly, only to die in the Assembly.
“If we are serious about increasing public safety, we need realistic, effective solutions.”
Young voted against all of the bills except for one requiring out-of-state pistol permit applicant investigators to seek mental health records from the applicant’s home state, which was passed 60-1 in the Senate.
Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda, also voted against the majority of the bills, but voted in favor of banning rapid-fire attachments for firearms, as well as requiring out-of-state medical records.
Giglio told the Times Herald that he sees many of the bills as backlash against statements by President Donald Trump and incidents elsewhere in the country, while not focusing on New York’s problems.
As an example, Giglio said the red flag law was meant to address shortcomings from the Parkland, Fla., shooting a year ago, but noted that the legislation would have done nothing to prevent the tragedy.
“All of the safeguards were there, they just weren’t followed,” he said. “When you overreact and you start taking people’s rights away, it’s a slippery slope.”
In addition, Giglio noted the restriction on firearms possession by anyone other than paid professional security and law enforcement is crippling to rural areas. Volunteer security could make a difference in area schools, he said, with the bill being vague on if volunteers are allowed or not.
“Where do you find the money in a rural area where not every town has a police force,” he said, with longer response times in the area than in Parkland or other school shooting targets. “School districts do not have the money to pay security to come — it takes the decision out of the hands of school boards and school administrators.”
Strengthening background checks and providing funding for school safety would do far more than most of the proposals heading to the governor, Giglio said, with many meant to appease downstate voters, as opposed to improving safety.
“We can do so much good if we try and work together, but that’s not the case,” he lamented. “An entire part of the state is being treated as a red-headed stepchild.”
GUN RIGHTS GROUP leaders also sounded off against the bills.
Michael Guerin, chairman of Cattaraugus County chapter of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, said his group is opposed to virtually every point of the bills passed on Tuesday.
“The red flag law, we think it is absolutely ridiculous,” he said, adding that he is concerned about how an owner could get their weapons back if proven not to be a threat, the potential loss of rights without due process and selective enforcement.
Annually, Guerin said he attends rallies in Albany against gun control legislation, and often speaks to the crowd.
“I hate Cuomo, but I’m not going to his house or anything,” he said. “Does that mean that, according to the red flag laws, I could lose my guns?”
There is a culture formed by upstate gun owners, Guerin said, that bucks authority coming from Albany.
On Tuesday, Cuomo said there were 43,000 registered assault weapons in New York under the 2013 NY SAFE Act; meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated there were around 1 million in the state.
Guerin said that discrepancy is no accident.
“The consensus is out there — we are not going to comply,” he said, adding when a 2018 deadline for recertifying handgun permits came, many gun owners chose to mail in paperwork instead of using the online system in order to “not do their work for them.”
“They still don’t know how many people aren’t recertified because they’re still sitting on people’s desks,” he said.
That attitude is likely to extend to bump stocks and other rapid-fire accessories, Guerin said.
“This is an accessory to a weapon — it’s not a weapon,” he said, adding SCOPE does not believe the government should regulate accessories.
Guerin also noted that the same effect as a $100 bump stock can be created by cutting a rubber eraser to the correct size and wedging it behind the trigger of an AR-15.
But the group is not against all limits on gun ownership, he cautioned.
“There needs to be a mental health database, whole-heartedly,” he said, adding those with mental health disorders that make them a threat to themselves and others should be restricted from owning firearms. However, he noted that the database needs to be kept up to date, removing old reports when no longer relevant.
“Just because your father died and you were prescribed antidepressants for two weeks, they shouldn’t take your guns,” he said.
(Contact reporter-editor Bob Clark at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)