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NY SAFE Act survives first court challenge

New York’s strict new gun control measures survived a preliminary battle in court March 13, as a downstate judge refused to block implementation of the NY SAFE Act.

Justice Thomas McNamara on Wednesday said case law prevents him from reviewing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s justification in passing the law. Robert Schultz, who brought the suit, said he will ask the Court of Appeals to review the precedent.

The law, pushed by Cuomo and enacted in January, however, did take a ceremonial and vocal hit from many in Monroe County.

The Republican majority of the Monroe County Legislature is urging the governor and state Legislature to repeal many of the tougher gun regulations enacted earlier this year.

Each of the Legislature’s 19 Republican legislators and County Executive Maggie Brooks on March 12 signed a resolution, which sends a clear message of opposition to the NY SAFE Act, said Majority Leader Anthony Daniele, R-Pittsford.

The legislators oppose the act because of its uncertain economic impact on the county and the additional restrictions placed on law-abiding gun owners. They also cited opposition of more than 40 counties and groups such as the New York State Sheriff’s Association.

The legislators said they do support the so-called “Webster provision,” which provides stiffer penalties for those convicted of shooting and killing a first responder and is included in the act. The provision came about after the fatal shooting of two West Webster volunteer firemen on Christmas Eve 2012.

The provision, however, should be stand-alone legislation, Daniele said.

Legislature Democrats did not sign the legislation, which was introduced shortly before legislators were scheduled to meet.

Minority Leader Carrie Andrews, D-Rochester, said the SAFE Act includes many worthwhile provisions and stricter penalties.

“I don’t think these provisions should be repealed,” Andrews said.

The action comes as state legislators — perhaps later this week or early next week — could meet to amend the law, according to Legislature president Jeffrey Adair, R-Wheatland.

“I want to make sure every legislator on this body has their voices heard,” Adair said.

Opponents of the gun law crammed into the county legislature chambers, as dozens of others stood outside, lining the fourth-floor hallway, waiting to speak out on the gun law.

They included a mother whose child carried a sign reading, “Mommy is a first responder.”

Many criticized legislators for not going far enough in opposing the law, preferring that each legislator vote their stance for the record.

Ken Barlow of Henrietta said there is a difference between a resolution and a strongly worded letter, which can and most likely will be ignored.

The gun law is a civil rights issue that cannot be ignored, he said.

“It just seems like a coward’s way out,” Barlow said.

Ken Mathison, a member of the board of directors of Shooters Committee on Political Education, or SCOPE, said he appreciates the letter, but would prefer a vote.

“This law is terribly flawed,” Mathison said. “We want our civil rights defended.”

The suit in state Supreme Court claimed the SAFE Act violates the state constitution because it was passed too quickly and restricts the rights of citizens — echoing the concerns of legislators in Monroe County and elsewhere.

Cuomo claimed a “message of necessity” in order to waive the three-day waiting period customarily used for voting on legislation.

Includes reporting by The Associated Press

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