Residents Debate Legislators’ Opposition to NY SAFE Act

After the Putnam County Legislature unanimously passed a February 6 resolution calling on the state to annul the NY SAFE Act, supporters of the gun control legislation blasted the county for rushing through the memorializing legislation without any public debate. They got their debate Wednesday, as hundreds crammed into the Historic Courthouse in Carmel to voice their opinion on the controversial law and the county legislature’s response.
After hearing input from residents and county officials for more than two hours at the legislature’s Protective Services Committee meeting, several legislators acknowledged that they had erred in voting on the resolution before first allowing for discussion at a committee meeting, which is the normal process.
“I let myself down and I let each one of you down by not saying that evening when it was presented, ‘Wait a minute, this is wrong,'” said Legislator Sam Oliverio, the lone Democrat on the legislature. “We did not allow public discussion and that troubles me.”
Referring to Wednesday’s public hearing, he added, “This is what we should have done.”
The legislature indicated they were unlikely to revisit the non-binding resolution, as opponents of the SAFE Act outnumbered supporters by about three to one. Both sides, though, were well-represented, with approximately 50 residents wearing stickers reading “I support NY SAFE… you never asked me.”
“While I am pleased our democratic system affords me this opportunity to speak tonight, I do feel that it would have been more appropriate to present this petition at the full legislative meeting last month,” said Alexandra Dubroff, a Cold Spring resident who presented a petition criticizing the legislature for its stance. “You do not speak for me when you unanimously pass this resolution to repeal the NY SAFE Act.”
Opponents of Governor Cuomo’s controversial legislation erupted in thunderous applause after hearing from each speaker critical of the SAFE Act.
“I wish take this opportunity to personally extend my thanks to each and every one of you for taking a stance on this new law,” said Nicholas Castellano, a Carmel resident and board member of the Putnam County Fish and Game Association. Reading from a letter from the Fish and Game Association, he added, “As you are already aware, this law does nothing to prevent crime or end tragedies, while placing unnecessary and expensive burdens on the law-abiding citizens of New York State.”
The item drew a massive crowd which county officials said was the largest they’d seen at a legislative meeting. All seats were filled, with the aisles and the back of the room packed with onlookers. Even the winding staircase leading up from the ground floor was jammed.
The Feb. 6 resolution was passed three weeks after Cuomo signed the SAFE Act on Jan. 15. The item was put on the agenda at the February full legislative meeting at the request of County Executive MaryEllen Odell, who cited a letter from County Clerk Dennis Sant in which Sant expressed concern over the burden of additional pistol certification imposed by the law.
“This is a time sensitive matter, as you can see from the attached correspondence from County Clerk Dennis Sant,” Odell wrote in a memo to the legislature.
The legislature obliged, and the resolution passed without a public hearing.
The county’s haste in passing the resolution, which calls on the state to take action but has no legislative impact on its own, irked supporters of gun control, who demanded the lawmakers allow for public debate. Dubroff’s petition garnered more than 700 signatures, while petitions in support of the county’s stance received similar support.
Legislators, and many of the speakers, blasted state lawmakers for rushing the SAFE Act through without much discussion or public debate.
“We were reacting to what the state government did,” Legislative Chairman Richie Othmer said. “You should be complaining to your state officials and not us.”
Putnam is one of 52 counties in New York to pass a resolution opposing the SAFE Act, which limits the number of rounds permitted in a magazine, expands background checks and increases penalties for certain offenses.

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