It is no surprise that there is a lot of consternation about stricter gun controls enacted by the New York State Legislature last month. Some of the outcry against New York's new SAFE Act has been ridiculous and has done nothing more than cloud arguments against the legislation by tapping into unreasonable fears.
Some of the concerns, however, are legitimate and should be addressed if the law is to properly be enforced.
We agree that some measure of gun control is needed to deal with the growing number of violent incidents involving firearms across the nation. We also agree that the cloak-and-dagger approach taken by the New York State Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass the law, which happened without the benefit of a review period or public input, has helped pour gasoline on the fire started by gun-rights advocates who are against any type of firearms restrictions.
Sheriffs across the state, including Montgomery County's Michael Amato, have signed a letter addressed to Cuomo asking for the law to be annulled.
The sheriffs have concerns about some vague language in the legislation's provisions, such as a more specific definition about what constitutes an assault weapon, knowing where residents actually have to go to register handguns, and whether police officers have the right to inspect a person's gun for the appropriate number of bullets without trampling on their constitutional rights.
Those questions are reasonable and deserve answers. If the state is going to pass laws such as these, the government has a responsibility to give local police agencies the information and resources needed to properly enforce them.
What's not OK is for sheriffs like Fulton County's Tom Lorey to publicly trumpet themselves as grand defenders of the Second Amendment and intimate that they will not enforce the law because they disagree with it. Any police officer, regardless of rank, who refuses to enforce the laws they've sworn to uphold should be removed from office immediately.
What's also not OK is for public officials like Gloversville Mayor Dayton King to feed misinformation to the public -- such as his announcement that he will not have police officers search people's homes for guns, when the law doesn't allow for that anyway -- or a give a recorded television interview suggesting that the state's gun control law will create a Waco-style standoff, which only serves to incite fear and possibly violence.
What is OK is for sheriffs like Amato to simply ask questions and raise concerns about the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act to state lawmakers. A calm, reasoned approach to the matter will more likely result in calm, reasoned answers being given.
Although the SAFE Act is officially on the books, we believe the state should consider suspending its enforcement until all of the kinks and questions are ironed out. Albany brought this on itself when it bypassed the public; the least lawmakers can do is hold off enforcement until local concerns are addressed.
Common sense, not grandstanding, is needed to make the legislation work.