Public Safety Committee discusses SAFE Act

MAYVILLE – A controversial New York state law is causing some conversation within the County Legislature.

The Public Safety Committee discussed the NY SAFE Act during its Wednesday meeting. Legislators Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, and Robert Stewart, R-Ellington, submitted to the legislature a motion calling for the repeal of the act.

The NY SAFE Act was signed into law in mid-January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The controversial law intends to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons and potentially dangerous mental health patients. Additionally, it bans high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.

The law has come under the scrutiny of many, including state Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Chautauqua County.

“It was rushed in an effort to take political advantage of public anger over the recent tragic events at the Sandy Hook (Elementary School) and Webster, and to ensure that New York state was the first state to address gun control following these tragic events,” Goodell recently told the OBSERVER. “It was driven by political opportunism, rather than any real emergency.”

On Wednesday, Chautauqua County joined other counties around the state in speaking up against the law. However, not all legislators at the Public Safety meeting felt that speaking out against the law is the right move.

“I think these are really court challenges,” said Bill Coughlin, D-Fredonia. “Once it’s passed, I think it will be challenged in the court. It’s a state issue. Talk it over with Catharine Young. Talk it over with Andrew Goodell. See what they can do in the state to change it or repeal it or whatever they can do.”

Others, though, felt that it is the responsibility of the legislature to speak up regarding the issue.

“We owe it to our constituents to carry that message forward,” said Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point. “As you can see what’s happening, Niagara County did it, it’s on the news, it’s making broad coverage. That does get people’s attention. I think we owe it to carry that message forward.”

County Executive Greg Edwards presented the Public Safety Committee with a map of other counties throughout the state that have granted motions similar to the ones being presented by Chautauqua County. He also addressed Coughlin’s concerns regarding the motion.

“If this becomes a regular practice on every issue that’s dealt with in Albany, then it loses its weight,” Edwards said. “But, when you have this many counties all speaking with one voice, it gives our elected leaders who voted in opposition to the SAFE Act more weight when it comes to dealing with the governor and others.”

Coughlin said he was opposed to how the act was passed. He also said he doesn’t like that, thus far, it is not clear as to what is in the act.

“We’re just jumping on the bandwagon,” he said.

Paul Wendel, R-Lakewood, also voiced his concerns about the act during the meeting.

“If (information on gun owners) becomes public knowledge, all you have to do is Google on the computer and find out anybody who has a handgun,” Wendel said. “In my opinion, this was a trophy for somebody’s political agenda.”

No action was taken on the motion during Wednesday’s committee meeting.

However, it will likely be discussed further during next Wednesday’s full legislature meeting.