April 2, 2013

Tompkins County Legislature Supports NY SAFE Act

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On Tuesday, Tompkins County became one of a handful of counties in New York State supporting NY SAFE, an act Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) describes as the “toughest” gun control law in the nation.

The Tompkins County Legislature, which heard hours of debate on the act, passed a resolution in a 10 to 5 vote supporting NY SAFE at a meeting Tuesday. A resolution calling for the repeal of the NY SAFE Act failed to pass in a vote of 3 to 12.

NY SAFE, which was enacted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) on Jan. 15 after an elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., expands restrictions on the sale, transportation and possession of firearms in New York State. Although Cuomo said the law will help protect citizens from gun violence, critics say NY SAFE was rushed through the state legislature without addressing concerns raised by mental health experts, gun-owners and police officers.

At the meeting, City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 voiced his support for the NY SAFE Act, saying the law protects people while respecting citizens’ Second Amendment right to possess a gun.

Echoing Myrick’s sentiments, Prof. Fred Wilcox, writing, Ithaca College, said the act’s expansion of an assault weapons ban will help protect innocent citizens from gun violence.

Others, however, were in opposition to the to gun control law, describing it as a violation of Second Amendment rights.

Calling for the state to repeal the act, Henry Kramer, a resident of Dryden, said, “New York State has infringed constitutional rights.”

Kramer also criticized the state, saying it passed the law without garnering input from constituents.

“Law first, input later? That doesn’t seem to make sense,” he added.

Tompkins County Legislator Michael Lane (D-14th District) — who introduced a resolution asking the state legislature to gather more feedback from the public — said that, after listening to people across the county, he thinks NY SAFE should be revised.

“There are problems in this law, particularly in the way it was rushed through the legislature,” he said.

County Legislator Nate Shinagawa (D-4th District) echoed Lane’s concerns about the act. Although he said he supports the act, Shinagawa said he is troubled by other parts of it: the act expands the definition of assault weapons and requires that therapists who believe a patient has threatened to use a gun illegally report the patient to a mental health director.

Other representatives expressed skepticism about the ability of Tompkins County to sway state legislators to modify NY SAFE.

“Anything we do tonight will not change anything that will happen in Albany,” County Legislator Will Burbank (D-12th District) said.

Regardless of their position on the issue, many of the legislators expressed their support of the public, which turned out in the dozens to express their views on the act, according to Legislator Brian Robinson (R-9th District).

Legislator Peter Stein (D-11th District) lauded the public for coming out to discuss their thoughts on the NY SAFE Act and said his “eyes were opened.”

“I have learned so much,” he said. “I’ve spent many hours thinking about what has been said.”

A total of nine proposed resolutions were made public at Tuesday’s meeting, each differing in the degree to which the Tompkins County legislature would support the NY SAFE Act. Two of the resolutions — pushed forward by conservatives — opposed the act, saying they would urge the state to repeal NY SAFE, according to the packet of resolutions.

Original Author: Tyler Alicea