Supervisors split over resolution that calls for repeal of gun law
HUDSON–It was standing room only at the County Office Building Wednesday, March 13 for the public hearing and adoption of Resolution 81-2013, which opposes the process used to enact the New York SAFE Act gun control law and certain provisions of the law.
County Clerk Holly Tanner read aloud the resolution in its entirety and the county Board of Supervisors, which intended to hear public comments for 15 minutes, extended the comment period to a half hour, as speakers voiced their opposition, in fervent, colorful, emotional, and, at times, extreme language, with references to the Second Amendment and quotes harking back to both the American Revolution and the battle of Thermopylae, 2,000 years earlier.
Those opposed to the resolution, although fewer in number, were equally vocal and no less ardent in their support of the state legislation. Several acknowledged flaws in the SAFE Act but also found fault with the resolution before the board.
More than one speaker invoked Thomas Jefferson’s statement that “When Government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” One parent stated that as a father and a protector, and at all costs, he will never comply. His comment triggered a resounding applause from the crowd.
Claverack resident Tom Williams, said, “We will pass the resolution, but the law has not been fully enacted. People won’t register their firearms.”
Others expressed their objections to what they felt was Governor Cuomo’s “railroading” of the legislation by citing the message of necessity. By issuing a message of necessity for a bill, a governor can force the legislature to vote immediately on a measure. Normally a bill must “age” for three days prior to a vote.
Gallatin Supervisor Tom Garrick read a letter from Congressman Chris Gibson (R-19th) supporting the resolution requesting repeal of the SAFE Act and citing the Second Amendment and saying, “It is important this right be preserved today.” Mr. Gibson said in the letter that he has “opposed similar efforts in Congress.” The letter added that a majority of other counties in his district have passed similar repeal legislation.
On the other side, Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin said that three-fourths of crimes in New York involve guns purchased out of state. “There are portions of SAFE that are supportable, and some are not,” he said.
Supervisor Ed Cross (Hudson–2nd Ward), acknowledged that the issue needed more discussion.
Adrian Citrin, an Ancram resident, suggested that voting quickly to repeal the SAFE Act was just as much of a concern as was quickly passing the law.
Supervisor Richard Scalera (Hudson–5th Ward) proposed that the Board of Supervisors consider the Sheriff David W. Harrison Jr. response to NY SAFE Act, as it supports many of the law’s provisions. While some parts of the law need clarification, he said, “This resolution is too rigid, and I believe there should be debate about what should be changed and amended. Repealing it is not the right answer.”
Supervisor Bill Hughes (Hudson–4th Ward), also referenced the sheriff’s response and suggested it should be the model to send to the state.
Claverack Supervisor Robin Andrews said “We all want to reduce gun violence. [But] we are concerned about the propensity to introduce legislation that doesn’t get to the root of the problem and may not reduce violence.” She advised that lawmakers “take time to ensure all voices are heard.”
Mr. Hughes asserted that the same process, the message of necessity, was exercised recently for other issues, including redistricting and evaluating teachers, and that the legislators could have opposed it, and did not do so.
The resolution to oppose the process of enactment of and certain provisions contained within the New York SAFE Act was adopted with 16 supervisors voting for it and 6 against, mostly along party lines, with the exception of Ms. Andrews’ vote in favor. Supervisor Matt Murell was absent. The actual voting involves weighted votes based on town population.
The vote tally was as follows:
Art Bassin no
Robin Andrews yes
Lawrence Andrews yes
Patrick Grattan yes
Raymond Staats yes
Richard Keaveney yes
Jesse DeGroodt yes
Thomas Garrick yes
John Porreca yes
Roy Brown yes
Arthur Baer yes
Jeffrey Braley yes
Sarah Sterling no
Edward Cross no
Ellen Thurston no
William Hughes no
Richard Scalera no
Kevin McDonald yes
Michael Benson yes
Ronald Knott yes
Elizabeth Young yes
Jeffrey Nayer yes
Since the SAFE Act is already law, the vote can be interpreted as primarily meant to send a message of protest to Governor Cuomo.
Other topics discussed during the meeting included a proposed revision of Section 48-15 of the Code of Ethics for Columbia County and a presentation on a hazardous mitigation plan.
Richard Washburn, chairman of the Ethics Committee, explained the reasoning behind the suggested modification of the Annual Statement of Financial Disclosure form required of certain county officials, which is intended to prevent potential conflicts of interest. He remarked that as it currently reads, there is ambiguity in terms of how the statement can be interpreted and has resulted in some instances of non-compliance. On those occasions in which officials were not in compliance, a letter was sent, followed by a fine of $20. The board rewrote the form to make it more straightforward. Although the vote was close, the proposed change did not pass.
Dennis Lawler, of Ecology and Environment, who had been contracted by the county to update the Hazardous Mitigation Plan, explained that the plan is designed to identify potential hazards (such as floods, hurricanes, ice storms and other natural events) and assess their impact on the community so that the County may receive reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
To qualify to receive those funds, a plan must be place, and the current one expires at the end of 2013. There is a plan for each town in the county, and the data gathering process for updating them will begin March 27 with final worksheets completed by April 12. He added that additional FEMA money is due for the damage suffered from hurricane Irene.