DA says he won’t use SAFE Act against ‘John Q Public’
Hawley leads SAFE Act forum attended by 200 in Albion
ALBION – If someone in Orleans County is violating New York’s new gun law, the SAFE Act, law enforcement officials told them not to worry unless they are using the gun to commit a crime.
If law-abiding citizens and sportsmen have guns that cosmetically could soon be considered illegal or if they have a gun with 10 bullets instead of the limit of seven, they don’t need to worry that their guns will be seized or that they will be arrested or fined.
That was the message from District Attorney Joe Cardone and Tom Drennan, chief deputy of the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department.
“We won’t be there knocking on your door, I can tell you that,” Drennan told 200 people during a SAFE Act forum Monday night in Albion at the middle school.
Cardone said Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the majority of the State Legislature, in a “knee-jerk reaction,” approved the SAFE Act without thinking through its ramifications, particularly on law-abiding gun owners.
As DA, he is sworn to uphold New York laws, but he is also bound to support the Constitution. Many gun owners believe the SAFE Act violates their Second Amendment rights.
“We’re put in a very difficult position,” Cardone said tonight during a forum.
State Assemblyman Steve Hawley coordinated the forum. Hawley opposed the SAFE Act and he has introduced legislation to repeal it. New York should start over in looking for solutions to curb violence in communities by using a legislative process that is open to the public and welcomes input from sportsmen, law enforcement agencies, veterans, businesses and gun owners, Hawley said.
Cuomo pushed through the SAFE Act in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut. The law, which restricts access to guns and ammunition, was passed without a public hearing.
“I say shame on the governor for using people’s emotions to pass his own agenda,” Hawley said.
Steve Aldstadt, state president of the Shooters Committee on Political Education or SCOPE, said at least five lawsuits are trying to block the SAFE Act. Those judicial battles could wage for years.
The best way to combat the SAFE Act is to vote Cuomo out of office during the November 2014 election, said several speakers, including Steve Aldstadt, state president of SCOPE. State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said he is working for a repeal of the SAFE Act. Hawley also said the election next November is likely gun owners’ best hope for changing the law.
Mattie Zarpentine of Holley, the Western NY regional director for New York Revolution, urged all gun owners to register to vote and then cast a ballot in the state-wide elections. NY Revolution formed after the SAFE Act’s passage. It worked to secure formal resolutions from the county, and 10 town and four village government boards in Orleans County, the only county in the state where all levels of local government opposed the SAFE Act.
Zarpentine said gun owners, if they turned out in force in the state-wide election, could oust Cuomo from office.
Hawley organized the forum so gun owners could have information about the SAFE Act and its impact on them. But the assemblyman said the law is often vague, creating anxiety and uncertainty for gun owners as well as law enforcement.
“Bad process leads to bad policy and that’s what we have here,” he said.
The law forbids certain features on guns, forces doctors or counselors to report mentally ill patients who own guns, and creates a $500 incentive for people to report SAFE Act law-breakers. Gun owners can also have their names and addresses obtained through public records unless they chose to opt out. Some newspapers have published lists of gun owners and their addresses.
Gun owners will have to re-register every five years. It will be harder to pass down guns through the family, and it will be much more difficult to buy ammunition.
“It’s hard to believe they passed this,” said Aldstadt, the SCOPE leader. “There are so many onerous provisions out there that will effect law-abiding citizens.”
Drennan, the chief deputy, said the SAFE Act unfortunately targets sportsmen and citizens who follow the law.
“A lot of this is ridiculous and doesn’t make any sense,” he said about the SAFE Act.
Cardone said some of the SAFE Act provisions stiffen the penalties for criminals who break the law while using a gun. In those cases the law will help put criminals in jail or prison. In those cases, Cardone said, he would use the SAFE Act to prosecute criminals.
But he won’t use it for standalone crimes that involve only the SAFE Act. So far no one in Orleans County has been arrested under the SAFE Act.
“If someone faces other charges they could be charged with the SAFE Act,” Cardone said. “But John Q Public, I’m not going out of my way to make a problem for them.”