The Putnam Examiner

Gun Owners Urge Philipstown Board to Reject Safe Storage Law

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Slamming a possible safe storage gun ordinance as intrusive and unconstitutional, gun owners provided a laundry list of complaints to the Philipstown town board in hopes of stopping the controversial proposal.

With opponents of the proposed gun safety storage law packing town hall to such capacity that some residents had to stand near the entrance, gun advocates made their case to the Philipstown town board Wednesday night during a more than two hour workshop.

A draft of the law was sent to the town attorney that would require gun owners to store their gun(s) in a safe storage depository that’s bolted to the floor or wall with a lock to prevent unauthorized use. The gun(s) must be rendered incapable of being fired by use of a gun-locking device appropriate to the certain gun, according to the proposal. If a person is caught violating the law, they could face 1,000 fine or up to a year in jail. Advocates for the law believe it would prevent untimely deaths, specifically among youths, and make the community safer.

But opponents have a stark difference of opinion.

One of the residents to come out against the law was Putnam County District Attorney Bob Tendy, who lives in neighboring Putnam Valley. Tendy, a Republican, cited numerous problems he had with the law.

Tendy said he thinks if the law is passed, it could lead to a lawsuit against the town. Because the state already has certain gun laws in place, it’s questionable if a municipality can override what New York lawmakers have already passed. Tendy said if the ordinance passed, it would contradict Supreme Court case decisions.

Tendy said he also doesn’t know how the law could actually be enforced and was skeptical if safe storage is necessary in Philipstown.

“I don’t know if this is really an issue in this community,” Tendy said.

Other opponents of the proposed law–more than a dozen– also slammed it and called for more firearm education.

Garrison resident Craig Watters said the law was outside the town’s jurisdiction and suggests some neighbors don’t trust other neighbors to secure their gun appropriately. He also called it an economic mandate because now gun owners would have to buy certain firearm storage gear.

“The citizens of Philipstown have demonstrated over generations that common sense gun safety has already been practice,” he said.

Cold Spring resident Airinhos Serradas called the proposal “wrong on so many levels” and argued it would not deter or prevent any violence. He adamantly said the law would make it harder for gun owners to defend themselves in the event of a home invasion, citing the law enforcement response time in the area is more than ten minutes on average.

Resident Kevin McConville, a former sheriff candidate, presented the town board with a petition that had more than 500 signatures on it that opposed the ordinance. He said the ordinance causes a series of intended and unintended consequences and would lead to confusion and uneven justice.

Eric Vogel, a Garrison resident, said the proposed law attempts to paint gun owners with a broad brush and it assumes that gun owners don’t know how to safely store firearms.

Edward Sion, a Patterson resident who is wheelchair bound, said every home has different circumstances that dictate different storage options. He fears if Philipstown passed the law, it could spread to other municipalities in the county.

Garrison resident Tim Lusk, who lives on top of East Mountain, said 20 of his neighbors would face charges if the ordinance were put in place.

“It think it’s contemptible, and I think it’s an insult to me and my neighbors,” he said. “We’ve never had a problem and we’re not going to have a problem.”

A handful of residents suggested having firearm safety education, whether in the local schools or in public sessions on a resident’s own time. A few residents went as far as to suggest this law would lead little by little to tyranny.

Supervisor Richard Shea said the proposal is only under consideration because residents brought it to the board in hopes of passing the safe storage ordinance. There was a roomful of residents at a meeting October to discuss the pros of the law. Shea hasn’t hinted which way he would vote because he’s waiting to hear input on every side.

Councilwoman Nancy Montgomery was probably the most vocal during the meeting. She noted the National Rifle Association recommends safe storage and the town board is simply deciding if it should be turned into law. Montgomery also said the lack of safe storage has been an issue in town, pointing to a 2013 case where a drug addict broke into a resident’s home and stole a firearm.

“Luckily the consequences didn’t result in death, but it could have,” Montgomery said. “If this law can save one life that’d be fantastic.”

John Van Tassel said he was waiting to hear back from the town attorney. He noted he “100 percent supports safe storage” and hopes the discussion leads to more residents in the area to store their firearms properly.

“We need to find out if we can even do this,” Councilman Michael Leonard added. “We have a process we have to go through. I’m open-minded.”

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