Tonawanda News — New York’s new gun-control laws face increasing criticism, now including calls for repeal Thursday by the Erie County Legislature and a recent resolution passed by the Erie County Sheriff’s Police Benevolent Association that ranks among the harshest rebukes yet.
The PBA chapter representing about 130 members of the department’s Police Services Division unanimously passed a resolution of non-support for the bill on Jan. 24.
A press release containing the resolution was leaked days before its intended release this week. It calls the NY SAFE Act an “unprecedented attack on our Second Amendment rights” and is not only critical of the new law, but also of Cuomo and even some members of the law enforcement community.
One line calls police officers who show up at public signings of such laws “lap dogs seeking to further their own political ambitions.” Another calls Cuomo an “elitist politician,” and is critical of the method he used to pass the legislation, citing the fact that Cuomo did not allow for the standard three days to review a bill before a vote.
"It’s an attack on our Second Amendment rights. We’re citizens first and police officers second and we’re not going to be police officers all our lives,” Brad Ballantyne, acting PBA president for the chapter, said.
On Thursday, the Erie County Legislature also became the largest county to date in opposition to the act, with the body’s minority caucus formally requesting a full repeal of the law following a 7 to 4 vote that crossed party lines.
“Today’s resolution lets Albany know that Erie County remains a place in the state where one’s Second Amendment rights are respected,” said Minority Leader John Mills. “The SAFE Act lacked transparency, lacked input from constituents, and lacked common sense. Counties throughout New York state are in opposition to this bill. We are hopeful Albany will repeal, revisit and revise this bill so that we have legislation that doesn’t infringe on the rights of legal gun owners.”
Similarly, the PBA members made it clear that they feel the law is a violation of the Second Amendment, and said they will not pick and choose which amendments to the constitution they will uphold. They then encouraged politicians to do the same.
While Ballantyne said elements of the state legislation regarding universal background checks and mental heath screenings are not objectionable, limits to the number of bullets a gun can carry and the definition of the term “assault weapon” are among the items the group takes exception to.
Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard is not affiliated with the chapter, but has also been critical of the SAFE Act, as has the Niagara County Legislature. In a Jan. 31 press release, Howard said Cuomo “rammed” the bill through, and accused the governor of using the Sandy Hook shooting and the murder of first responders in Webster, N.Y., to further a personal political agenda.
While Howard’s language was not quite as strong as the PBA’s, both condemnations by those sworn to uphold the law highlight many of the same issues. Howard points out that the common link between Sandy Hook and Webster was a mentally disturbed shooter.
In its statement, the PBA cites what it calls “societal breakdowns” as a cause for mass shootings. The PBA chapter, which does not speak for all members of the law enforcement community, is now seeking to ally with other, like-minded police organizatons, Ballantyne said.
He said his chapter of the PBA decided at a monthly meeting held this week to reach out to other PBA chapters to drum up support for the resolution. He said the union has received only positive feedback since the resolution was made public.
“Some of the patrols have had people coming up and shaking their hands to thank them,” he said.