The Tompkins County Legislature, after listening to over two hours of concerned public comment and discussing the issue for another hour-and-a-half, reached its position on the New York SAFE Act. That position, however, differs from the recommendation advanced by its Public Safety Committee last week, indicating the Legislature’s support of sensible gun control, while addressing State and Federal-level actions concerning gun control. The measure passed by a 10-5 vote, with Legislators Dave McKenna, Mike Lane, and Frank Proto, Public Safety Chair Brian Robison, and Legislature Chair Martha Robertson voting no.
The resolution, cosponsored by Legislators Dooley Kiefer, Carol Chock, Pat Pryor, Pam Mackesey, and Will Burbank, supports the intent and enactment of the New York SAFE Act, demands the State Legislature and Governor provide funding for the increased costs of state agency and local record-keeping and enforcement (including for the Sheriff, the County Clerk, and county mental health departments). It urges the Legislature and the Governor to continue to re-examine details addressed by the legislation in an open and public process, affording residents of the State the opportunity to be heard on the legislation, and then to confirm, modify, and/or correct the statute in a careful and deliberate manner. The action also urges the United States Congress and President to remove the existing restriction on the creation of a federal gun database and undertake timely consideration of suggestion of suggestions by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Legislator Chock stated, “As a community, it is time to respond to the 30,000 deaths a year that involve guns.”
More than 100 citizens turned out for the meeting, and about half of them spoke—23 speaking in support of the law and 28 against. In their deliberations, Legislators began with the recommendation advanced by the Public Safety Committee, urging re-examination of the Act, then by a split vote of 8-7 substituted the alternate ultimately approved. As part of their action, Legislators declined to take up the call for repeal of the Act, first filed by Legislator Dave McKenna, as well as the middle-ground version initially proposed by Legislator Lane.
Robison said he could not favor the measure since it reflects “support” that he does not share. Legislator Peter Stein voiced called the measure “better than nothing but not very good,” saying that he’s not convinced that big changes are not needed, and that the Legislature is not asking for any of those major changes to be made. Legislator Jim Dennis said he will stand by his support, saying that while the SAFE Act is flawed, support as communicated in the resolution is “the right thing to do.” Legislators again thanked all who turned out to communicate their concerns in a positive, respectful process.