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April 17, 2013

Sheriffs: New gun laws cost time, money

By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star

---- — Two local law enforcement officials said Tuesday that New York’s strict new gun control laws are already costing their agencies money, complaining that the statute amounts to another unfunded state mandate on county governments.

Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. said his agency has seen the work load associated with processing gun permits increase by approximately 90 percent in just one year.

“We’ve been swamped since this law was enacted,” Devlin said of the New York SAFE Act, which was hurried through the state Legislature in January. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has touted the measure, designed to restrict access to guns redefined by the legislation as assault weapons, as a first-in-the-nation response to the massacre of school children and teachers at a Connecticut school in December.

Devlin said he plans to notify the Public Safety Committee of the county’s Board of Representatives today that he will likely need additional personnel to assist in the increased processing of documents related to firearms permits.

In Delaware County, Undersheriff Craig DuMond said the state’s new gun law is also causing headaches for his agency.

“Absolutely we’re going to incur additional expenses to handle the administrative work behind this,” DuMond said. “The governor continues to say he understands the effect the unfunded mandates are having on local governments. However, this is another one coming right down the river being passed on to us.”

Cuomo has argued the legislation will make New Yorkers safer from gun violence. In a radio interview last week, he contended the criticism of the SAFE Act was being engineered by “extreme fringe conservatives” opposed to gun regulation. “In politics, we have to be willing to take on the extremists, otherwise you will see paralysis,” Cuomo said.

DuMond scoffed at the claim that the measure is opposed by extremists, noting more than 45 county governments have called for it to be either repealed or amended and pointing out that even the Otsego County Democratic Committee has called for significant alterations.

“I don’t know what state the governor thinks he’s living in,” the undersheriff said. “In New York State, people are overwhelmingly against this.”

A poll last month by Marist College, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found that among upstate registered voters only about 36 percent said the new gun law was “about right.” That survey reported that 48 percent of upstate voters said they believed the SAFE Act went “too far.”

DuMond said urban resident and rural residents tend to have decidedly different views on gun control, noting that in rural regions, people often have to wait for lengthy periods in order to get police to respond to an emergency, while in cities, response times tend to be quicker.

In addition to the political fallout — the latest polls have shown Cuomo’s popularity rating has dropped since the SAFE Act was enacted — the governor is contending with a fusillade of legal challenges to the legislation. This week, the state Rifle & Pistol Association filed a request urging a federal judge to block sections of the SAFE Act from being enforced, including one provision that limits the capacity of ammunition magazines.

“The Act prohibits plaintiffs from exercising their fundamental Second Amendment rights, and that constitutes irreparable harm for the purpose of a preliminary injunction,” the association said in its court papers.

The association also cited two U.S. Supreme Court rulings — one from 2008, and a second from 2010 — in contending that the SAFE Act infringes on the constitutional rights of gun owners.

Cuomo served as state attorney general for four years before being elected governor in 2010. Some critics of the gun legislation have claimed Cuomo pushed through the measure in order to enhance his chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. A Quinnipiac University poll last month showed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is by far the favored potential Democratic candidate for president.