Lawmakers back motion protecting gun privacy

MAYVILLE – Despite five votes to the contrary, the County Legislature is collectively in favor of a motion to protect the privacy of pistol license and concealed carry permit holders.

A motion calling on the New York State Legislature to enact, and Gov. Cuomo to sign into law, legislation to protect the privacy of pistol license and concealed carry permit holders had enough signatures to be brought to the floor during Wednesday’s legislature meeting.

Bill Coughlin, D-Fredonia, like in the April 17 Public Safety Committee meeting, voiced an opinion against the motion, stating that public records became open following the Richard Nixon administration.

“We gave the press the opportunity to question at any time, and we made our records open,” Coughlin said.

“So, what we are doing here is, we are violating the First Amendment right, the right of the press, to come forward and look at governmental transactions. We put in people who are foreclosed, marriage certificates, death certificates, anything that goes on. You are now infringing upon what is the press’ right to understand what is going on in government, and what the transactions are that are happening in government.” he concluded.

Several other legislators also had strong opinions on the motion, which was at the request of Chairman Jay Gould, R-Ashville.

“I personally would not care if my name was published as a pistol holder,” said Fred Croscut, R-Sherman. “More importantly is the fact that if you had a neighbor … that cannot get a pistol permit, or maybe is mentally disabled, that neighbor now knows that when you are not home, he or she or someone can enter your residence and possibly steal that weapon.”

George Borrello, R-Irving; Larry Barmore, R-Gerry; and Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, also spoke in favor of the motion during the meeting.

“It’s important that we understand that just because this may not affect you does not mean it’s not an affront to the constitution and our rights as people and American citizens,” Borrello said.

On the other hand, Timothy Hoyer, D-Jamestown, joined Coughlin in speaking out in opposition to the motion, which would forward copies of it to Gov. Cuomo; Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Chautauqua County; State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean; Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning; and InterCounty Association of Western New York.

“For the protection of people, we have the right to know who has a gun,” Hoyer said.

Following the discussion, legislators voted 20-5 in favor of the motion.

Voting in favor of the motion were Ahlstrom; Shaun Heenan, D-Dunkirk; Robert Duff, R-Sheridan; Borrello; John Runkle, R-Stockton; Robert Stewart, R-Ellington; Tom Erlandson, D-Frewsburg; Barmore; Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott; Lori Cornell, D-Jamestown; Paula DeJoy, D-Jamestown; Charles Nazzaro, D-Jamestown; Vince Horrigan, R-Bemus Point; Paul Wendell, R-Lakewood; Gould; Croscut; David Himelein, R-Findley Lake; John Hemmer, R-Westfield; Thomas DeJoe, D-Brocton; and Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia.

Voting against the motion were Coughlin; Hoyer; Robert Whitney, D-Jamestown; Rod Rogers, G-Forestville; and Victoria James, D-Jamestown.

Also during the meeting was a resolution which authorizes an additional .5 percent sales tax in the county. The county’s additional sales tax has been reduced from 1.25 percent down to .5 percent since 2006. The resolution requested increasing the additional sales tax by an additional .5 percent, bringing it to 1 percent.

The vote to increase the sales tax passed 22-3. The legislators voting against it were Cornell, James and Hoyer.

Following the meeting, County Executive Greg Edwards expressed surprise that the three legislators opposing the resolution were all from Jamestown. He said that, had the resolution not been passed, it would have cost the city of Jamestown $529,825.99.

“By voting in opposition to the continuation of the (tax), what they’re voting for is the removal of almost $530,000 in revenue in the city of Jamestown, the place that they represent,” Edwards said.

Cornell defended her decision, saying she has and will continue to vote against any tax increases.

“I oppose tax increases period, whether it be a sales tax increase, a property tax increase, I have always, consistently, since becoming a legislator opposed tax increases,” Cornell said. “The bottom line is, a vote in favor of a resolution like we saw today is a vote in favor of a sales tax increase.”