Monthly Archives: September 2013

Cayuga County sheriff, mental health director discuss problems with SAFE Act

Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould speaks at the Wednesday Morning Roundtable about the New York SAFE Act at Theater Mack.

Cayuga County Sheriff David Gould speaks at the Wednesday Morning Roundtable about the New York SAFE Act at Theater Mack.

9/18/2013  •  Samantha House

AUBURN | Is the SAFE Act making New Yorkers any safer? Two Cayuga County officials aren’t quite sure.

At this season’s first edition of the Wednesday Morning Roundtable, two Cayuga County officials shared their qualms with the controversial gun-regulating legislation and some suggestions about how to improve the law.

The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 was quickly passed a few weeks after 26 people — including 20 first-grade children — were murdered during a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Speaking to an audience gathered inside Theater Mack, Sheriff David Gould said the law was passed two days after it was presented — a fast feat in a state where he said it usually takes about one year to pass each law.

“It was not done correctly,” he said. “I guarantee you they did not look it over.”

Although Gould agreed that the country needs gun reform, he said it must be done in a way that doesn’t penalize law-abiding citizens.

And the sheriff does not stand alone in his opinion. Many legislatures, including the Cayuga County Legislature, have passed resolutions asking the state to repeal the SAFE Act.

One part of the law particularly irks Gould: a SAFE Act provision that allows citizens to request the names of people who hold pistol permits. The sheriff said making permits public would lead to burglaries, and punishes people who followed the law by obtaining a permit.

So Gould does not have any intention of releasing the names of county residents with pistol permits.

“Not going to happen while I’m sheriff,” he said. “It is about the worst part of the law.”

The SAFE Act banned high-capacity magazine sales, expanded background checks and a placed more stringent restrictions on automatic weapons.

The law also required mental health professionals to report patients they deem likely to harm themselves or others to the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Service.

Ray Bizzari, Cayuga County’s mental health director, said the provision has created a cumbersome burden for people in his position.

“A lot of folks come in talking about wanting to hurt themselves or someone else,” he explained.

By speaking openly about their urges without worrying they might lose their guns, Bizzari said many patients are more willing to accept the help they need to get well. But when they get picked up by officers or lose their guns, he said patients become angry and often opt to avoid treatment.

And even though the SAFE Act only regulates guns, Bizzari said mental health professionals are required to report any threats — even if a gun isn’t mentioned.

“It’s not related to guns,” he said. “It’s related to the likelihood to harm themselves or others by any means.”

Aside from the cumbersome nature of the law, Bizzari said the SAFE Act operates under the assumption that the mentally ill are more dangerous than the general population.

“This notion that people who are ill are dangerous is inaccurate,” he said. “They’re more likely to be victims, frankly.”

So instead of passing “stupid” laws without first consulting experts, Bizzari advised that the state should instead allocate more time and resources to treating mental illness.

Gould agreed, adding that he believes smarter changes — such as lengthening sentences for defendants who use weapons — should be enacted to reduce gun violence.

“We need reform,” he said. “We need reform that doesn’t violate the Second Amendment.”

Staff writer Samantha House can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or Follow her on Twitter @Citizen_House.

What really drove Colorado recall vote — hint: it wasn’t ‘voter suppression’

Published 9/12/13

By Kurt Bardella

Colorado’s first ever successful recall wasn’t about money. It wasn’t about partisan politics. It wasn’t even about guns.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s historic recall election, a lot of people are re-writing history.

Some say it was bought and paid for by the gun-lobby, but if elections can be so easily bought and paid for why didn’t the recall fail? As the Washington Post noted, the anti-recall effort bolstered by billionaire Eli Broad and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg outspent the pro-recall effort by a 5-to-1 margin.

Others are saying it was partisan politics at its worst. But that doesn’t explain why more Democrats and Independents signed the recall petition than Republicans. That doesn’t explain why in State Senator Angela Giron’s district, where Democrats enjoy a 47-23% registration advantage over Republicans, the recall passed by double-digits.

You see, for the people of Colorado, the recall was about something much more fundamental and personal – their right to be heard.

The American people will tolerate many things but as history has shown, the one thing that can serve as a catalyst for revolution is action without representation. We have a fervent belief in our right to be heard. The entire idea of our democracy is predicated on the notion that our representatives have an obligation to at least listen to their constituents before taking action on their behalf.

That absence of an ability to gain an audience with their representatives is why Coloradans from across the ideological spectrum recalled State Senate President John Morse and State Senator Angela Giron.

That’s why it’s somewhat laughable that Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has characterized the recall as “voter suppression, pure and simple” because it is in fact “suppression” that ignited the recall in the first place.

For Morse and Giron, their fates were sealed on March 4th when they chose to divert from standard practice and ignored the hundreds of Colorado citizens who traveled to the State Capitol on the day that Senate committees were deliberating new gun-control measures. They were turned away and not heard.

Among those citizens were 30 Sheriffs, who came to testify, but only one was allowed to speak.

No matter what you think about additional gun-control legislation, is it so unreasonable to listen to testimony from the very law enforcement personnel who will be charged with enforcing them?

For all the talk about safety and common-sense, shouldn’t we invite the perspective of the very people who spend every single day dedicated to keeping our homes, schools and communities safe?

And that’s the problem, Sens. Morse and Giron didn’t want to hear from anyone. They didn’t want to let the process unfold and so they limited debate and restricted the ability of the people of Colorado from being heard.

Had that March 4th day not unfolded this way, there would have been no recall.

Instead, new laws that the majority of Coloradans opposed were imposed on them and the citizens weren’t even allowed to speak-out.

When elected representatives so willfully choose to ignore the voice of the people, no matter what the policy is or where they fall on the ideological spectrum, the people will unite and demand to be heard.

The recall process afforded these people a constructive, definitive and democratic mechanism to be heard.

The real takeaway from the recall as far as Coloradans are concerned isn’t about supporting or opposing new gun-control measures, it’s ensuring that never again will significant policy be imposed on the people unless the people have been given an audience with their representatives first.


Colorado’s recall vote: What the results mean for gun control

Peter Weber


Two Colorado Democratic state senators, Angela Giron and Senate President John Morse, were voted out of office in a special election Tuesday, in Colorado’s first-ever recall vote. Both were replaced by Republicans.

The election was billed as a showdown over gun rights: Giron and Morse were important backers of four gun control laws passed earlier this year, and both the National Rifle Association and Michael Bloomberg, founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, wrote fat checks for their respective sides (the NRA contributed at least $362,000 to oust the two lawmakers; Bloomberg spent $350,000 to support them).

Both sides of the bitter gun debate wanted to send a message with this election: Gun control opponents forced the recall vote to warn lawmakers in Colorado and across the country that voting for stricter gun laws has consequences; gun control advocates wanted to show that, after bloody mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., they now have the resources and muscle to defend lawmakers against the mighty NRA.

In that light, this was a big win for the NRA and a big loss for gun control advocates. Morse, who represented a conservative-leaning district including Colorado Springs, narrowly lost, 51 percent to 49 percent (voter turnout: 21 percent). Giron, whose working-class district around Pueblo tilts Democratic, lost by a larger margin, 56 percent to 44 percent (voter turnout: 36 percent).

“The results tonight will certainly be interpreted through the lens of the national gun debate,” Denver political analyst Eric Sondermann tells Politico. “About whether it’s safe to pursue this kind of legislation or whether to do it at your political peril.” And the results probably will reverberate around the country, he adds. “I have to believe that the state representatives, the state senators in this and that state, would walk a little more hesitantly in this debate.”

As a practical matter, the NRA’s win is less significant: Democrats will still hold a one-vote majority in the Colorado Senate, as well as control of the state House and governor’s veto pen. The gun laws, including background checks for all gun purchases and 15-round limits for ammunition magazines, will still stand. “The sound and the fury, the noise and the money are far larger than the consequences” of this election, Colorado State Univeristy political scientist John Straayer tells The New York Times.

Morse, who was on his way out anyway thanks to term limits, called his opponents’ victory “purely symbolic” in his concession speech. “We made Colorado safer from gun violence,” he added later. “If it cost me my political career, that’s a small price to pay.”

That’s a decent consolation prize for gun control supporters. But it’s still the national fight that matters most, “by far,” says Alec MacGillis at The New Republic. “There is only so much impact state laws can have when guns are so easily trafficked from states with lax regulations to ones with stricter ones.” That’s why gun control advocates are “still quietly working to line up just the handful of additional votes in the U.S. Senate” for nationwide gun control measures, MacGillis says. They hope to hold a vote before the midterm frenzy hits.

That is, if those key senators don’t take a cautionary message from the Colorado result. Gun control advocates are dearly hoping that legislators elsewhere will recognize the unique circumstances of the recall, and also recognize that, for once, the gun control side was actually in the fight in a big way, providing backup. [New Republic]

Financially, the anti-recall side can “hardly plead the underdog on this one,” says MacGillis. Thanks to liberal groups and philanthropists, they had far more money than the recall supporters. And they even had some help from new gun-control groups with canvassing neighborhoods and calling voters to drum up support. But the gun control side will have to do better if it wants to beat the gun lobby in the future, MacGillis notes:

Even with the rise of a real grassroots movement of gun control advocates, [the NRA] still enjoys its famed “intensity gap” that makes it much easier to turn its supporters for an event like this: An off-cycle, one-off election at a time when most people are thinking more about making it to back to school night than heading to the polls. [New Republic]

This was “an ugly chapter in Colorado’s political history,” says The Denver Post in an editorial. It was “an instance when recalls were used against elected officials not for malfeasance or corruption in office but for simply voting their consciences.”

We have repeatedly said it was inappropriate to launch recalls against Morse and Giron simply for their votes instead of waiting one year for regular elections. It was also a colossal waste of taxpayer money that ran well into six figures…. It’s time to move on. It is not time, for either side, to ponder more ways to use the recall process to undermine our system of regular, democratic elections. Enough already. [Denver Post]


Chicago abolishes gun registry in place since 1968

By Renita Young


CHICAGO (Reuters) – Chicago on Wednesday reluctantly abolished a 45-year-old requirement that gun owners register their weapons with the city, marking a victory for advocates of gun rights such as the National Rifle Association.

The city council voted to end the gun registry in place since 1968 to comply with court rulings against Chicago and Illinois gun control laws, and to bring the city into line with a state concealed carry law.

“I happen to think the court’s wrong. I think their interpretation is wrong,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said of the rulings that forced Chicago to eliminate the registry. He spoke after the council voted.

Chicago has faced a wave of gang-related violence that pushed its murder rate to a five-year high in 2012. While the number of homicides is down this year, police have complained that the city is awash in guns.

The Chicago decision came one day after the gun rights lobby scored a victory in Colorado, ousting two lawmakers who had supported gun control in the state legislature.

The powerful NRA, which boasts millions of gun owners as members, has successfully employed tactics, such as recalls and challenges to gun control laws in court, as a way to get strict enforcement of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which sets out the right to bear arms.

“We’re glad the Chicago firearm registration is gone,” said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, the local affiliate of the NRA.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010, in a case challenging Chicago’s gun restrictions, that every state and city must adhere to the Second Amendment. The ruling did not strike down the Chicago restrictions directly, but sent the case back to a U.S. appeals court for review.

In December 2012, the appeals court ruled that Illinois’s ban on concealed carry was unconstitutional and gave the state six months to create a law allowing guns to be carried in public.

Illinois approved a concealed carry law in July, giving control of gun regulations to the state and essentially nullifying Chicago’s power to require that gun owners register their weapons and have a city firearms permit.

The measures approved by a voice vote on Wednesday complied with the new state law. In addition to eliminating the gun registry, the measures eliminated the requirement for gun owners to have a Chicago firearm permit.

(Reporting by Renita Young; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Greg McCune, Nick Zieminski and Leslie Adler)

(NY Hunters – Safe Act) No firearms at Pack Forest


State-owned land at Pack Forest in Warrensburg has
been popular with area small game and big game hunters for decades.

But a quirk in state law has prompted the college that owns the land, SUNY-ESF, to ban firearms from the 2,500 acre preserve. Non-firearm hunting will still be allowed, as will trapping.

The so-called SAFE Act bans firearms on college campuses, but there was an exception in the law to lands owned by the state and used by SUNY-ESF.

However, Pack Forest is actually owned by Syracuse University and loaned to SUNY-ESF and Syracuse officials are concerned that the law does not make an exception for its property.

“The state doesn’t own Pack Forest. It is held in a trust by Syracuse,” said Joseph Rufo, SUNY-ESF’s vice president for administration.

SUNY-ESF issued a news release this week about the issue and the new rule.

The same change is taking affect at the land around the state Forest Ranger academy in Wanakena in the north-central Adirondacks.

“Traditionally, the college has allowed the use of firearms for hunting on our properties,” said Robert Davis, director of forest properties at SUNY-ESF. “But changes in the law now prohibit that use. Hunting that does not involve rifles, shotguns, or firearms, as defined in section 265.00 of the New York state Penal Law, is still permissible.”

Those who violate the new ban could face a felony count of criminal possession of a weapon.

— Don Lehman