Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting speaks to members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors and those in a packed Old County Courthouse March 18 about the issues and concerns he had with the SAFE Act, New York State’s new gun control law which has been hotly debated throughout the state. The county became the 50th out of 62 in the state to pass legislation in opposition to the law.
Essex County residents packed the Old Essex County Courthouse March 18 as the Board of Supervisors voted to seek a repeal of the highly debated New York SAFE Act.
Roughly 90 people packed into the meeting facility, filling the floor and balcony to address the board on its resolution to repeal the gun control law known as the SAFE Act before it made the decision to move forward with the resolution put forth by the SAFE Act Task Force one week earlier.
Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting first addressed the board and audience over concerns and issues he had with the law as enacted by the state Jan. 15.
"Guns have two enemies, rust and politicians," Cutting said. "The makers of this law really don't understand weapons and did not look for people who did."
Cutting referred to a pair of similar-caliber rifles that were both not defined and defined as an assault weapon.
"They carry the same ammunition. They have the same ballistics. They both do the same thing," Cutting said. "The only difference in these weapons are looks. We are scared by a black gun that looks menacing."
Cutting also said that the law enforcement exemption was not carried over with the new law, which concerns him.
"If my officers walk onto a school property right now, they are in violation of the law because those exemptions were not carried over," he said. "We have been assured that this will be changed, but we do not know when."
Cutting said he was in favor of several aspects of the law, including Marks Law, which increases penalties for the shooting death of a firefighter or first responder.
"These people are out there working for you and protecting you, and they deserve this kind of protection," he said.
Don Sage, president of the Schroon Lake Fish and Game Club, said he felt the county should go further with their resolution.
"There are counties that have said they will not spend any money to enforce the law and I would encourage the county to do the same and commit that you will not spend any money on this law," Sage said. "You should not spend anything on this stupid law. There has to be a way to pick on the criminals than pick on the law-abiding criminals."
Bruno Mazzotte of Moriah Center said that state residents cannot buy many of the rifles that are now made.
"The SAFE Act is going to stop New York residents from buying 75 percent of the weapons that have been made in the last 100 years," Mazzotte. "The politicians are doing everything they can to prevent us from our Constitutional freedoms. Do not let them."
"I would like to let Gov. Cuomo and others know that we love our children as much as they do, and we are not criminals," Gary Raikiewicz of Jay said. "Parts of the SAFE Act would make us criminals as well, and I do not know how many people in Essex County will even comply to it."
Raikiewicz also said he would be in favor of armed guards in schools.
"Is our money in the bank more important than our children," he asked. "We guard our money with guns, but not our children."
"Unfortunately, this is becoming an upstate and downstate issue and that is unfortunate," former Essex Supervisor Ron Jackson said. "Not everything in there is bad, but the way that it was passed was bad. If they had gone through the proper procedures and been vetted, like you did, we would have a very different law."
Keene resident Lorraine Duvall claimed the county had done the same thing that the state had done in working on a resolution without what she felt was due process.
"You gave less than a week for residents to look at it," Duvall said. "The timing with this resolution is similar to the timing of the New York state law. We feel that the time was not there to get the input of all Essex County residents."
Duvall also presented a resolution to the county, asking them to table the current amendment and replace it with one calling for amendment, not repeal.
"We ask that the county revise their resolution to provide a resolution to amend rather than repeal the law," Duvall said. "Talk about different aspects of the law, not just one aspect."
"They did more due diligence than what they served up down in Albany," John Sharkey of Ticonderoga countered. "I take exception to those who said not enough time was put into this. It was more time than the governor ever gave to this in Albany."
"Let' do something that prevents the United States from being ranked as the country that has the most people in prison and the most deaths from firearms," Harrison Caner of Keene said. "Let's do something that cuts down on the availability of these multiple-shot machine guns."
Pat McBride of Ticonderoga said that he was tired of the state "nanny-ing" its residents.
Win Belanger of Willsboro said that he has sold many of his weapons or given them away because of the new law.
"So you do not need to come to my house anymore because I only have a one-round thing. It's called a bazooka," Belanger joked. "We need a law. We do not need this law. The person who is going to break into my house, come into my school or enter a military base, we are not going to stop them with this law."
Belanger is also a staffer of State Assemblyman Dan Stec, who has fought against the SAFE Act and has a petition on his Facebook Page to repeal the law.
"Our legislators that work for us did not support this," said Belanger, referring to Stec along with Assemblywoman Janet Duprey and Sen. Betty Little.
Monique Weston of Keene said she asked a hunter about the SAFE Act who told her that they had no objections to it.
"I hate to see people going forth and saying that everything in this law violates the Second Amendment," she said. "I think that there are some terrible things in the law and I think that there are some good things. Ultimately, I would like to see this law proved and then amended."
"I feel that this conversation is very important," Michael Rice of Crown Point said. "When we took our son to the pediatrician, they asked if we had guns in the home. I asked them why and they said it was a psychological question. I have a degree in psychology, and it was not a psychological question; it was a personal question that infringed on my rights."
After public comment, Board Chairman Randy Douglas then asked members of the board if they wished to comment.
"This resolution was not done with haste, and it was not done last night," said Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow, who chaired the SAFE Act Task Force. "The resolution calls for the repeal because it needs to be re-started. There are some things I agree with in this, but not in this form. I will go on record as saying I will not abide by this."
"I think that this was an excellent piece of work that went into this resolution," Lewis Supervisor David Blades said.
"We had a big task and we took it very seriously," Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley said. "If we had the power to do away with this law, we would do away with all of the unfunded state mandates that cripple local government. I hope that this resolution will include a list of recommendations that the sheriff has given to us."
"I have four grandchildren under the age of seven that live within 25 miles of Newtown, and it has affected them," Westport Supervisor Dan Connell said. "I will vote in a second to amend this. I will not vote to repeal this. If we start back at zero, then nothing is going to happen."
"What was in my mind is doing what I felt was right for the people, and I am going to support the repeal," Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee said. "I do hope that this goes back and is looked at because I do feel this needs attention."
"My vote is based upon a poorly drafted piece of legislation that was given little thought or evaluation," North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said. "I believe this law needs to be re-drafted and at this time I will only support a repeal of the law."
"This is one that we have been discussing for the last several weeks," Minerva Supervisor Sue Montgomery Corey. "I was the only member of my town board to vote against the repeal of the SAFE Act because I would prefer amendment. My board has asked that I recognize their vote and support the repeal and I am going to honor that and vote to repeal."
"I do not think that it is so much about the content as it is about the process in the way that this bill was passed," Tom Scozzafava said. "The state passed a law that towns have to put their agenda's online to let people know what is going on and then the state does this with no public notice or public hearing."
"This comes down to two basic principles," North Hudson Supervisor Ronald Moore said." One is the Second Amendment and the other is the process of democracy."
"Here, we didn't have the process," Crown Point Supervisor Charles Harrington. "What we have here is what I call pasty pudding, and pasty pudding always gets poured out."
"I have not had anyone ask me not to repeal this and I have talked to State Police, veterans, teachers and others speak to me about this," Schroon Supervisor Michael Marnell said. "I have to vote to repeal this because it needs changes."
"I support the repeal because this law was not observed by the democratic process and it does not do anything to curb the violence that we are talking about," Ticonderoga Supervisor Deb Malaney said. "I also think that we should help to be part of the solution and not the problem."
"I think that this is a matter of the camel getting his nose under the tent," Newcomb Supervisor George Canon said. "We cannot let this process go downhill like this, and I will vote to repeal this."
"I believe that the Second Amendment is being infringed upon and I believe that this law should be repealed because there were to many rules and regulations that were broken during this entire process," St. Armand Supervisor Charles Whitson Jr. said.
"I have shot nothing more than a BB gun," Douglas said. "There is no one in this room that has more respect for Gov. Cuomo more than I do. To vote to repeal the SAFE Act as it is currently written, I will do so because I believe that there was no public input and that it is another unfunded mandate. I honestly feel that this should go back to the governor and the state Legislature to be re-written with public input."
Sharon Boisen of Essex did not comment, while Randy Preston of Wilmington was absent from the meeting.
Ed Hatch waited to speak until he offered a table of the resolution.
"This is definitely an upstate-downstate argument," Hatch said. "The only way this will be repealed is in the courts. I really believe that this law has to be addressed by lobbying like we have in the past."
The board did not approve the motion to table and then voted to pass the resolution by a 2,552-268 margin (weighted voting), with Connell and Hatch voting against the resolution.
In passing their resolution, Essex County became the 50th county in New York state to pass a resolution against the SAFE Act. Albany, Broome and Sullivan counties have proposed resolutions against the law, while lawmakers in Tompkins County were planning to introduce a similar resolution March 19.
Counties that have not undertaken SAFE Act legislation include Westchester, Bronx, New York, Richmond, Kings, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk.
The board also voted to oppose the proposed state legislation requiring gun owners to obtain liability insurance.