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Counties urging gun law repeal

Saturday, February 23, 2013 - Updated: 5:09 PM

ALBANY (AP) -- New York's new gun law has prompted opposition in many of its 62 counties, with 22 county legislatures calling for partial repeal and public hearings while warning that new requirements for gun registration, law enforcement and mental health reporting will be a costly burden.

The upstate counties passing the nonbinding resolutions say the law infringes on the right to bear arms and threatens to make criminals of law-abiding residents. Other counties are expected to follow.

"Our New York State representatives could not and did not have the time to request and receive the input of their constituents regarding this matter," said the repeal resolution adopted 13-1 by the Greene County Legislature this week. It noted a few "encouraging" provisions like privacy protection for licensed pistol owners and addressing "glaring shortcomings" in New York's mental health system.

County officials also cited concerns about clerks having to register thousands of formerly legal semi-automatic weapons and renew pistol permits, as well as enforcement of provisions that could require county sheriffs' deputies to confiscate guns from owners deemed ineligible to have them.

They say the requirement for psychologists and other mental health professionals to report patients likely to hurt someone appears to give counties responsibility to verify cases and advise the state, which will determine whether those people are no longer legally eligible to own a gun.

"Essentially the legislators and supervisors are responding to their constituencies," said Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties. "The citizens are going to the local governments that they did not have the right to participate in the process used by the state to enact the state law. So the county legislatures are bringing this viewpoint to the state and expressing that through resolutions."

While 22 county legislatures already have passed such resolutions, four others are considering them, Acquario said. It indicates a statewide divide on the issue, between upstate counties and the greater New York City area, he said.

A recent Siena voter survey also showed that divide, with majority support for the law in the city, which already has even more stringent gun controls, its immediate suburbs and Long Island.

Tom King, president of the New York Rifle & Pistol Association, said his group isn't pushing the county efforts though he expects 30 or more to pass resolutions.

"I have more hope in our lawsuit than in nonbinding resolutions," he said.

King said the suit challenging the law, which is expected to be filed within the next two weeks, will involve individual plaintiffs as well as associations with about 400,000 members and gun manufacturers. Meanwhile, a rally at the Capitol against the law is scheduled for Thursday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed the legislation that was enacted in two days, said he will consider some amendments, though the only one that has been publicly discussed so far would provide some exceptions for police.

The law bans certain semi-automatic guns and large magazines, requires owners to register within a year any once-legal guns banned under the law's tighter definition of "assault weapons," and outlaws bringing them into New York from elsewhere.

It also institutes mandatory background checks for ammunition purchases, tries to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people who may be a threat to themselves or others, and increases prison penalties for gun crimes.

The measure, spearheaded by Cuomo after the Connecticut school massacre of 20 children and six adults, passed the New York state Senate, which is run by a Republican-dominated coalition, 43-18. The Democrat-controlled Assembly approved it 104-43.


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