A gun-storage ordinance that packed town hall Wednesday night moved forward in Philipstown as the town board voted to send a draft of the law to the town attorney for legal review.
In a 4-1 vote, the all-Democratic board decided to send a draft 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.
While advocates for the law believe it’ll prevent untimely deaths, especially among youths, opponents find it an infringement on the Second Amendment and don’t think it will make the community any safer. Varying opinions were not heard during the meeting Wednesday night because the forum wasn’t meant for public comment, but opponents of the law were told they could set up a workshop with the board to address in the future.
Councilman Bob Flaherty, the sole dissenter of the proposal, said he didn’t think it was in the town’s jurisdiction to impose this type of a law. He added New York already has one of the toughest set of gun laws in the country and less than 5 percent of residents own guns. Either Putnam County or New York, should take action on this proposal, Flaherty said.
“I don’t know of any real issues that I know of people getting killed here recently with guns,” Flaherty said, arguing he doesn’t think it’s enforceable. Still, he encouraged local gun owners to secure their guns properly.
Voting to move the proposed law forward was Supervisor Richard Shea. Shea, a gun owner and hunter, said other communities, including all of Westchester County, have adopted similar laws and called it a “common sense approach to safe firearms.” He noted his firearms are always stored securely.
During the meeting, Shea said he was unsure who put the proposal forward, but noted a resident can draft a proposed law and submit it to the town board.
“We’re not looking to impact the Second Amendment here,” Shea said. “We’re looking to make sure that when people are not in possession of their firearms or if they’re not around them and people have children visiting their home that the firearm should be stored securely.”
Residents in Philipstown and throughout the county spoke out against the ordinance outside of town hall once the town board voted to go ahead with a legal analysis of it.
Philipstown Republican Committee chairman and Cold Spring resident Kevin McConville said he doesn’t believe the law carries any value. McConville, a former MTA police chief who twice ran for Putnam sheriff, said the town would be bettered served holding gun safety classes.
He doesn’t think the law is enforceable and if it were, it’d be intrusive.
“Ninety-nine point nine percent of gun owners are responsible,” he said. “To try to enact this ordinance doesn’t seem to have a lot of common sense.”
Garrison resident Rodney Dow, who is member of the Garrison Fish and Game Club, said citizens that don’t know anything about firearms want to “impose their will” on legal gun owners. He called the town board’s actions “divisive to our community.”
“This will not solve anything,” he said. “It will only divide us more.”
Dow fears that if this law is passed, it could lead to further action against gun owners in Putnam and the overall country. He believes firearm education is the best way to move forward, arguing it should be added to the school curriculum like sex education and drug awareness.
Garrison resident Craig Watters, a registered Libertarian who ran on the Republican line for the town board last year, said the proposed law exceeds the existing gun regulations in place and there’s no indication the law is needed.
“There’s no evidence at all if this law were in place it would have ever prevented any sort of crime or incident,” he said. “It’s unenforceable.”
Watters said the town government should trust gun owners in the community to handle their guns appropriately. If the law is passed, it might cost gun owners more to pay toward storage for the weapons they own, Watters said.
Cold Spring resident and former village trustee Airinhos Serradas said he doesn’t believe the board is following the law and hopes when the town attorney reviews it, he will come to the same conclusion. Serradas added he found it odd that a regular resident can generate an ordinance that the town board then refers to the attorney.
“That I find an affront,” he said.
The issue was brought up at the town’s monthly meeting on Oct. 5. Philipstown resident Alex Dubroff, who is the Hudson Valley coordinator for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said millions of children in the United States live in homes with easily accessible guns. Approximately two children are killed each week in the country because of accidental shootings, Dubroff said. Unsafe storage also leads to many suicides in adolescents and adults, she added.
Several other residents and gun control advocates spoke out at the previous meeting urging the town board to pass the legislation.
“This law is about protecting our loved ones,” Dubroff said at the Oct. 5 meeting.