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February 14, 2013

Local ire for gun law crosses aisle

By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star

---- — County lawmakers from throughout the region are preparing to take issue with what Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called groundbreaking legislation to restrict access to certain firearms and ammunition magazines.

In an extraordinary break with a new policy that has been ballyhooed by Cuomo, a wing of the governor's own party — the Otsego County Democratic Committee — has registered its disagreement with significant aspects of the so-called assault weapon legislation.

A resolution adopted by the committee states that it is "not necessarily apparent that the prohibition of such firearms and magazines will, in fact, enhance pubic safety." It also states that provisions requiring owners to register weapons that did not previously have to be registered also fails to enhance public safety.

Meanwhile, the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors is poised to pass a resolution Friday that takes exception to the legislation and suggests it violates the constitutional rights of gun owners, said the resolution's author, Carlisle Town Supervisor Larry Bradt.

"There was no public input on this law from the people," said Bradt. "That's not democracy."

The Delaware County Board of Supervisors plans to consider a similar resolution Feb. 27, said its chairman, Harpersfield Town Supervisor James Eisel.

"This happened in the dead of night in Albany, and I believe it is an abuse of power," Eisel told The Daily Star. "Our law enforcement community is very upset with this. There are a lot of people up in arms. They are taking away our rights under the Second Amendment."

Eisel said many of the nationally publicized massacres involving the use of guns resulted from the actions of "people who are schizophrenic or have other mental problems. I strongly believe we have to set dollars aside for mental health clinics. That is where we should go if we want to resolve this issue."

The Chenango County Board of Supervisors is also taking up the issue, and a subcommittee is expected to draft a resolution this month, according to the board's chairman, Oxford Town Supervisor Lawrence Wilcox, a Republican.

"I don't necessarily like it," Wilcox said of the new law. "I don't blame the Legislature for trying to come up with something. But I really don't think this is a solution. I think we need to think about it a little more before we jump into a law."

Meanwhile, the public safety committee of the Otsego County Board of Representatives will deal with the new state law — known as the SAFE Act — today, said Rep. James Powers, R-Butternuts, the panel's chairman. He said Albany should repeal the measure because it is violating the rights of gun owners.

While the Otsego County Democratic Committee has sounded off against the new law, Powers said he doubts most Democratic county representatives will sign on to a resolution bashing the statute.

"The Democratic Committee can write any resolution they want, but it's meaningless if the Democrats on the board don't support it."

The county Democratic committee chairman, Richard Abbate of Cooperstown, said two county representative's on the party's executive committee, Rep. John Kosmer, D-Fly Creek, and Rep. Beth Rosenthal, D-Roseboom, did approve of the party resolution that is critical of the gun legislation.

"We feel this needs more study," said Abbate. "The governor has taken the lead on this, and we hope he will put together a blue ribbon commission to take a look at some of the issues. We feel this needs more study."

The new law bans any magazine that can hold more than seven rounds. It also requires that instant background checks be conducted on all ammunition purchases at the time of sale. Further, it requires re-certification of pistol permits every five years.

Joe Marmorato of Hartwick, a former police officer and a local GOP activist who has been calling for the law's repeal since it was enacted, said opposition to the statute cuts across party lines.

"I'm glad that some of the Democrats are coming around on this," he said. "All this does is hurt law-abiding people."