NY State program to reward reports of illegal weapons

A new statewide tip line now offers a $500 reward for turning in neighbors who have illegal weapons.

Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, recently expressed outrage over a memo sent by the Division of Criminal Justice Services offering a $500 reward for people who turn in their neighbors to the State Police for owning an illegal assault rifle. The taxpayer-funded program comes shortly after 51 upstate counties, including Chautauqua County, passed resolutions opposing the NY SAFE Act.

“Residents and county governments all across our state, including the Chautau-qua County Legislature, have voiced their strong opposition to this new legislation,” Goodell said. “In response, the governor’s administration has proposed a program to turn neighbors against neighbors.”

Assemblyman Andy Good-ell, R-Ellicott, expressed outrage over a program that offers $500 for people who turn in their neighbors to State Police for owning an illegal assault rifle.

A toll-free tip line has been established by the state to encourage residents to report illegal firearm possession. Residents can call 1-855-GUNSNYS (1-855- 486-7697) or text GUNTIP and their message to CRIMES (274637). According to the Division of Criminal Justice Services memo, “While the state will provide the administrative support and fund the rewards, the investigation and validity of the tip will be up to each local department.”

The tip line – which will be further explained in a comprehensive campaign – will be staffed by State Police 24 hours a day, and will remain anonymous and focus on individuals with illegal firearms. If information leads to an arrest for illegal possession of a firearm, the person providing the tip will be awarded $500.

“Chautauqua County is home to thousands of law-abiding outdoorsmen and firearms enthusiasts,” Goodell said. “We need to focus our efforts on combating criminals, reducing gun violence and addressing mental health issues, not use tax dollars to go after those who have always acted in a lawful manner.”

On Feb. 27, the Chautauqua County Legislature voted in favor of a motion to repeal the SAFE Act, which was signed into law in January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The controversial law aims 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.

“I am thrilled to see that virtually every county outside New York City and throughout New York state is in direct opposition to Gov. Cuomo’s attempt to violate our Second Amendment rights,” said County Executive Greg Edwards. “That had happened before most people had realized he was also offering neighbors $500 bounty money to send in a tip about their neighbor who they believe has a gun that is beyond this limitation that has been placed by the governor. That’s using our tax dollars to fund neighbors ratting out other neighbors for owning a .22 rifle that has a magazine with more than seven bullets in it.”

Edwards’ statement was made before the State Legislature removed the legislation which made it illegal to have more than seven rounds in a magazine.

A Silver Creek man has already been charged earlier this month under the NY SAFE Act for the alleged sale of illegal guns. Benjamin M. Wassell, 32, allegedly sold the illegal firearms in January and February, following the implementation of the NY SAFE Act. He was the first person to be charged under the new law.

A phone call to Sheriff Joe Gerace was not immediately returned.