March 6, 2013

Common Council Discusses State Gun Control Law

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The City of Ithaca Common Council and Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 voted 10-0 to pass a resolution in support of the Safe and Fair Gun Policy and the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act Wednesday evening.

However, some council members felt that the resolution required revision, and a modification to the Common Council’s resolution that indicated its support of the act’s “intention” was passed with a 7-3 vote.

Provisions of NYSAFE — which places restrictions on the possession, transportation, and use of firearms around New York State — were enacted by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 15. It declares the unsafe storage of assault weapons a misdemeanor, bans the online sale of assault rifles, requires that stolen weapons be reported within 24 hours and requires therapists who believe a patient may be threatening to use firearms illegally to inform a mental health director, according to the resolution.

According to Myrick, the passing of NYSAFE in New York elicited strong opposition from the National Rifle Association.

“The [NRA] feels very threatened by the fact that New York State came out and passed these strict gun laws,” Myrick said. “They wanted to make New York State a test case. They wanted to see if they could come in to see if they could get legislation to appeal it, and by appealing it, to frighten other states or the federal government into not taking any action to tighten gun controls.”

According to the Common Council, the NYSAFE Act was proposed following the tragedies in Newtown, Ct., on Dec. 14, and in Webster, N.Y., on Dec. 24. Some members of the Common Council said they believed NYSAFE was written too quickly in response to these acts of violence.

“I have concerns about the process because [NYSAFE] was done out of a message of necessity by the state legislation,” Alderperson Joseph Murtagh M.A. ’04 Ph.D. ’09 (D-2nd Ward) said. “It was done quickly … and the process of this [act] was flawed. When you rush complex pieces of legislature you make mistakes.”

Alderperson J.R. Clairborne (D-2nd Ward) said the resolution needed to reflect the fact that the council supported the motivation behind NYSAFE but thinks that NYSAFE needs some revisions. In response to Clairborne’s concerns, the final line of the resolution was modified.

Ithaca residents expressed concern about the resolution’s focus and its effect on the community.

“We’re burdening the people who are actually following the law and want to do the right thing. They want to protect people, protect themselves and use [guns] in a sporting fashion,” said Ithaca resident John Littlefield.

In contrast, Alderperson Stephen J. Smith (D-4th Ward) said that NYSAFE would primarily affect owners of assault weapons while only minimally affecting the owners of handguns and other arms.

“The act does a great job of minimizing the impacts on legal gun owners while making sure that we are keeping guns in safe places, that we’re reporting them when they get lost, [and] that when we have a method when someone has a mental health issue,” Smith said.

Alderperson Cynthia Brock (D-1st Ward) said she was hesitant to support the resolution without first hearing the input of Ithaca law enforcement.

“I support the intent and the spirit behind this resolution, but I think this discussion makes it clear that none of us are really deeply knowledgeable on this subject. Now, I’m hearing that our law enforcement officials … have concerns about this legislation, and it makes me uneasy. I’m reluctant to support this at this time,” Brock said.

Despite concerns expressed at the meeting, members of the Common Council who support NYSAFE said they hope to communicate Ithaca’s stance on the issue to the NRA and other organizations.

“The NRA is a hugely funded, not-for-profit corporation. There are millions of dollars floating between the NRA and the gun industry. People in the NRA are not well-informed either,” Alderperson Donna Fleming (D-3rd Ward) said. “We have a chance to make a less-than-perfectly-informed vote that could make a huge political statement towards the good. I would urge you to vote for this.”

Original Author: Lauren Avery