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Norfolk officials pass resolution seeking NYSAFE Act repeal

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NORFOLK - The Norfolk Town Council has passed a resolution asking the state to repeal the NYSAFE Act.

Town officials and residents who spoke at Monday night’s meeting argued passage of the gun-control law was hurried, undemocratic and did not consider the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

Supervisor Charles A. Pernice said Gov. Andrew Cuomo rammed the bill throught he state legislature overnight in an effort to prevent a last-minute surge of gun purchases, which he says prevented the bill from receiving adequate review and public comment. Mr. Pernice commended the effort to improve safety and reduce gun violence, but he argued the law is full of loopholes and errors.

“The key thing is we didn’t like how it was passed. It was passed in the middle of the night without any (state legislators) reading it,” Mr. Pernice said. “It’s full of holes, full of issues. The way it was passed was wrong.”

The resolution is being considered by many other area town governments.

Mr. Pernice pointed out that a provision of the NY SAFE Act has made it a felony for any person, including law enforcement, to carry a firearm on school grounds or on a school bus. Prior state law also made it a felony for individuals to carry a firearm on school grounds, but made on exception for law enforcement officers. Like the old law, the new law has an exception that would allow armed personnel on school grounds if they had “written authorization” from the school.

The resolution was brought to the board by William R. Gray, who feels the act encroaches on the rights of law-abiding gun owners, while doing little to prevent gun violence from those with criminal and/or mental health histories. He said New York state law states that anyone found in possession of a registered weapon after allegedly committing a crime is subject to a minimum of five years in prison. He says the problem is that law is not fully enforced.

“If they enforced the laws on the books, they wouldn’t need new laws,” he said.

Mr. Gray pointed out he is no stranger to gun violence. He said he lost a son to gun violence in 1988 on the streets of Buffalo. His son was three and a half years old when he died.

Mr. Gray is a hunter, and he said he teaches responsible gun ownership to his children. He believes guns are an important fabric of American culture and history and says they are needed for Americans to “defend (their) homes and “keep food on the table.”

“I still own guns. I always will,” he said.

Mr. Gray also said the law sets arbitrary regulations on what guns are counted as a “weapon of war.” He said he owns semi-automatic rifles that have the same rate of fire and use the same cartridge as an AR-15 - a weapon that gun-control advocates have touted as an assault weapon.

“A weapon of war is fully automatic. (The AR-15) is semi-automatic,” Mr. Gray said. “I’ve got weapons at home that are semi-automatic. I don’t like them telling me what guns I can have.”

Mr. Gray went on to suggest the law was a gut-reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which took the lives of 20 children and six adult staff members. Mr. Gray feels part of the solution is improvement to treatment for mental health disorders and said the possible closure of the St. Lawrence County Psychiatric Center would be regressive to ongoing efforts to curb gun violence.

“(Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza) had mental problems, and they’re talking about closing the psychiatric center. It doesn’t make sense,” he said.

The Norfolk Town Council also passed a resolution to support the continued operation of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, noting the importance of the 500 jobs offered by the center. “We need to keep the jobs up here,” Mr. Pernice said. “We’ve lost too many jobs. They employ 500 people.”

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