Franklin County legislators oppose SAFE Act

MALONE – Franklin County has joined a growing chorus of upstate counties that have gone on record opposing New York’s SAFE Act.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, county legislators adopted a resolution that says the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, signed into law Jan. 15 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, “effectively turns countless New York State law-abiding gun owners into criminals” and “fails to offer any meaningful solutions to gun violence.”

The resolution repeatedly asserts the Second Amendment rights of Americans to keep and bear arms and calls the lawful ownership of firearms “a valued tradition in Franklin County and the State of New York.”

Legislative Chairman Billy Jones of Chateaugay said the resolution was drafted after legislators held a work session on the SAFE Act two weeks ago, during which they got feedback from the county clerk, sheriff and mental health professionals.

The resolution doesn’t spell out the specific parts of the law that county leaders take issue with, a fact noted early on in Thursday’s discussion by Legislator Paul Maroun of Tupper Lake.

“The governor has made it clear he’s not going to sign a repeal bill,” Maroun said. “But the governor also has to understand that every county in the state except the counties in New York City want that drastically altered. What I’d like to do is put in about seven or eight actual changes that we’d like.”

Among other other things, Maroun said he’d like to see the seven-bullet limit on magazine clips scrapped, along with the five-year pistol permit renewal provision. He also wants the state to pick up any additional cost county clerks will face from implementation and administration of the law’s requirements.

“The easy thing is to say, ‘Repeal the bill,'” Maroun said. “If we say we’ve got eight or nine things that should be changed, maybe (the governor) will listen.”

Jones said he didn’t have any problem adding more specifics to the resolution, but he also said, “If you’re going to amend maybe 70 percent of a law, maybe it should just go in the garbage can.”

Legislator Gordy Crossman of Malone said he didn’t want to wait any longer to pass the resolution.

“I’m getting hammered every day by people who want to know what we’re going to do,” Crossman said. “I know where you’re coming from, Paul, and it makes a lot of sense. But the problem is, people want us to say something now, and I don’t want to keep putting it off.”

“The public is getting restless,” added Legislator Guy “Tim” Smith of Fort Covington. “I think they want us to make a decision and make it quick.”

Jones said the county didn’t want to pass something as a “knee-jerk reaction like New York state did and pass a bill at 11 o’clock at night.

“We wanted to bring in our professionals, our sheriff, our mental health professionals, our county clerk, sportsmen’s groups, everyone to discuss it,” he said. “I think we’ve done a prudent job.”

The board approved the resolution as it was drafted but agreed to later consider specific recommendations on how the law should be amended.

Before approving the resolution, legislators heard from four speakers, all of whom urged them to oppose the SAFE Act.

Peter Martin, president of the Franklin County Federation of Fish and Game Clubs, said the law would ban guns used for shooting contests, like the AR-15 rifle. It will mean fewer sportsmen coming in from out of state for those kinds of competitions, which will have an economic impact, Martin said.

“This is a constitutional issue,” said town of Franklin resident Ed Martin. “It was shoved down our throats by the ones in power in Albany. We’re fed up. We’re sick of this.”

Town of Franklin Supervisor Art Willman said his board will pass its own resolution opposing the SAFE Act at a board meeting this coming Wednesday.

“This is an incredibly shortsighted and ineffective law,” said Garry Hoffman of Saranac Lake. “It’s not going to address the issues that need to be addressed to keep the guns out of the hands of those who should not have them.”

Rally, public forum

Ed Martin encouraged people concerned about the SAFE Act to attend what he said would be a “peaceful and informative” rally scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake.

County Sheriff Kevin Mulverhill is hosting a public forum on the SAFE Act at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Malone Middle School. He said he’s planning a similar forum in the southern end of the county at a time, date and location to be determined.