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January 16, 2013

Local sheriffs question merits of new N.Y. law

The Daily Star

---- — Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond and Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. both questioned the merits of a new package of gun control measures signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo argued the legislation will enhance public safety in New York. But Desmond said that requiring citizens to register guns that the new legislation now defines as assault weapons will not be a priority of his department.

“Nobody from the Schoharie sheriff’s department is going to be taking any weapons away from anyone unless they have committed a crime,” Desmond said. “An average law-abiding citizen is not going to have to worry about the sheriff’s department coming to take their weapon or arresting them for having a weapon.”

The legislation broadens the definition of assault weapons to include guns that had previously been described as such. For instance, a shotgun with a pistol grip is labeled by the new law as an assault weapon because of the single feature of having a pistol grip.

Although Cuomo had indicated last month that he was considering the option of having the government confiscate assault weapons, the legislation that overwhelming passed the state Senate and Assembly allowed those weapons to be kept by owners if they already have them.

Desmond said forcing citizens to register such guns is impractical and doe not enhance public safety.

“We don’t have the time to run around and tell everybody to bring their long weapons in to register them,” he said. “We’re just barely keeping up with the pistol permits we have now.”

Devlin said that while he agreed with some features of the legislation — such as a new requirement that pistol permit and rifle registration information be kept confidential — the thrust of it will have an onerous impact on law-abiding citizens who acquired their guns through proper channels.

“I don’t see how this legislation is going to prevent a crazy person from doing something that’s crazy,” Devlin said.

He said numerous gun owners have contacted him to register their displeasure with the legislation. “People are not happy,” he said.

State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, a long-time gun rights advocate, was one of the 18 state senators who voted against the gun package, which was acted on as a single bill.

Seward said he agreed with one component that increases the punishment for anyone convicted of killing a first responder as well as the provision limiting public access to gun records kept by local governments. The latter provision was inserted in the legislation following an uproar in Westchester County after a newspaper owned by the Gannett Co. acquired a database of gun permit owners and published their names and home addresses.

Seward said he also favored a provision that requires mental health providers to report to law enforcement when they encounter patients who could endanger others with weapons..

“My problem with the legislation is it zeroes in too much on the weapons — and puts restrictions on law abiding legitimate gun owners,” the senator said. He noted the overwhelming majority of his constituents were opposed to the new restrictions.