May 20th - 1:09 pm
Erie County has seen a strong resistance to the NY SAFE Act. In addition to local gun rights advocates, several elected officials, including the county’s top cop, have been vocal critics of the law.
“I believe in my heart and my soul that it’s unconstitutional,” said Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard.
The Republican Sheriff has not only joined a lawsuit seeking to overturn the SAFE Act, he announced last week he won’t enforce it. It’s a position that’s made him a target.
“We elect a sheriff. We don’t elect a king. Kings get to make their own laws. Sheriffs get to follow the laws as written,” State Assemblyman Sean Ryan said.
The Buffalo Democrat said Howard’s refusal to enforce the SAFE Act could literally put people’s lives at risk. Those convicted of domestic violence, who have an order of protection against them, would have their firearms confiscated under the SAFE Act.
“Safety of victims of domestic violence isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. It’s an issue for all society to be concerned with,” Ryan said.
Howard balked at the suggestions his opposition to the law would put anyone in the community in danger, and suggested the SAFE Act is the real public threat.
“That is endangering people inNew York. It’s endangering the public and it’s endangering police and we’re supposed to say oh thank you, we’ll accept this and say nothing about it?” Howard asked.
Howard said his office is committed to protecting victims of domestic violence with the laws already on the books. In the wake of the Vito Lopez scandal, Howard questioned whether or not an Assembly Democrat should be raising the issue.
“Let them go back and get their own house in order, particularly if he wants to talk about domestic violence,” said Howard.
Howard pointed out that the district attorney has the ability to file charges under the SAFE Act. For Ryan that’s not good enough.
“As a top law enforcement individual in the county, your job is to enforce the laws. You don’t have the authority to pick and choose,” Ryan said.
Ryan suggested the Governor could remove Howard from office for not enforcing the law. Howard had a simple message response.
“If he thinks he can, go ahead and try,” Howard added.
Apr 24th - 11:49 pm
The attorneys representing an Amherst man who had his guns mistakenly confiscated under the New York SAFE Act believe they have proof State Police, and not the Erie County Clerk, were responsible for the error. After getting a subpoena, one of the Lawyers for David Lewis produced documents he said contradicts statements State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico made to YNN last week.
“The statement that they (State Police) simply provided a name and an age range for the Erie County Clerk to investigate has been proven to be patently false and an outright lie,” said Max Tresmond.
In front of several members of the Buffalo media Max Tresmond, and his father and legal partner Jim Tresmond, released documents they claim were sent to the Erie County Clerk’s office from New York State Police. The notification included detailed information about Lewis.
“They (State Police) described him as to his age. They described him as to his license number, as to his address, as to his mental facility. And now they deny that they were the reason his license was revoked. And I believe that the statement that he (D’Amico) made was inaccurate,” Jim Tresmond said.
Lewis was mistakenly found to be in violation of the mental health provision of the SAFE Act because his attorneys say he was prescribed anti-anxiety medication at “some point.” During a visit to Western New York Last week, D’Amico told several media outlets it was Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs’ job to investigate whether Lewis was indeed the man police were looking for.
“Well, you know what, it turns out that this Mr. Lewis that had his guns taken was not the Mr. Lewis on the 9.46 referral. What happened to Mr. Lewis, a lot of it falls on the county,” D’Amico added.
Jacobs believes the evidence released Wednesday absolves his office of any wrongdoing.
“We received specifics on one particular individual; there was no doubt that that’s who the state wanted us to act upon. We have to make sure this does not happen again,” Jacobs said.
A State Police spokesperson told YNN’s Meg Rossman that documents including pistol permits were issued to all counties with a David Lewis that fit a specific age range and it’s up to the clerks to determine if it’s a match. State Police also denied accessing Lewis’ Medical Records.
Meantime, State Assemblyman Ray Walter is calling for an investigation into what led to the confiscation of Lewis’ firearms. Walter is calling on the Inspector General’s office to open an investigation into the way the Division of Criminal Justice Services and the State Police administration handled the case.
“Everyone should be concerned about that and I think that we need to get to the bottom of what actually happened,” Walter said.
The Amherst Republican is also asking the IG’s office to look into the issue of improper searches under the mental health provision of the SAFE Act. He expects to file a formal request next week.
Jim Tresmond is also accusing the state of creating a “clandestine HIPAA unit” within the Division for Criminal Justice Services, charged with examining New York residents’ medical records without warrant. The charge is part of a lawsuit he plans to file on Lewis’ behalf next week.
Apr 11th - 2:58 pm
The State Police are countering Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs’ claim that they ordered him to revoke the pistol permit of an Amherst man because of his past use of anti-anxiety medication.
Jacobs announced in a press release earlier today that he had been “following a recommendation” from the law enforcement agency when he revoked the permit of David Lewis, who had been medicated “at one point,” according to his attorney.
Just before the close of business yesterday, Jacobs said, he receivd a call from the State Police saying they had made an error, which he was quick to cast as a failure to “do their due diligence.” But the State Police see the situation differently, as is evident by the following statement that they just released:
“The SAFE Act requires mental health professionals to file notification when a medical professional determines that an individual he or she is treating is at risk to themselves or others. Medical prescription records are strictly private and not shared with the state, and no firearm license would ever be revoked for an anti-anxiety prescription.”
“The notification forwarded to the Erie County Clerk’s Office required additional follow-up before a positive identification of a person at risk to themselves or others became final. The State Police was very clear in its letter to the Clerk’s Office regarding the need for due diligence and the need for a positive identification by the County before they removed any weapon.”
“The final determination on whether to revoke or suspend a pistol permit license rests solely with the County and the licensing officials. The State Police has no authority to suspend or revoke a pistol permit in these circumstances.”
Jacobs, a Republican, had said that this case is proof there is a “serious flaw” with the mental health provision of the SAFE Act, and he’s certainly not the first to make that claim.
Jacobs is scheduled to join me on CapTon this evening, and I’ll be getting his reaction to this latest development.
Apr 10th - 11:54 pm
Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs said the New York State Police made a mistake when they enforced a mental health provision of the New York SAFE Act. Jacobs said he was ordered in an email from State Police to contact David Lewis, 35, and notify him he had to turn over his firearms.
“On this one I’m disappointed with State Police but I will say more so I’m disappointed with the legislation that was passed,” Jacobs said.
Lewis’ attorney Jim Tresmond said his client was told to turn over several firearms because he was once prescribed anti-anxiety medication at “one point.” Tresmond said his client was told that violates part the new gun control law.
State police odered his pistol permit revoked and Lewis was forced to turn the guns over to Amherst Police. Wednesday, Jacobs told YNN’s Katie Cummings he received a call from State Police explaining that they had the wrong person.
“Whether it’s the wrong name, or the mental health source was flawed, they need to go through and flow chart this process. After they called, it became clear that the State did not do their job here, and now we all look foolish,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs, a Republican who’s been critical of the law, said the error is a symptom of “inherent flaws” in the mental health reporting provisions of the new state law.
“We see more and more provisions within this that are not well thought through because they never talked with anyone on the ground who’s going to be implementing it,” said Jacobs.
Before the mistake was revealed, Tresmond raised concerns over whether or not HIPPA or Lewis’ fourth amendment rights were violated.
“We should all be concerned about it because there are times in all of our lives when we may be prescribed this medication for one reason or another,” said Tresmond.
Jacobs said his office does not have a role in the required mental health background screenings nor does the judge who revoked Lewis’ pistol permit.
“We’re not assuming responsibility on this because we do believe it rests with state police and the flawed legislation. But we will act quickly to get the firearms back to the individual immediately,” Jacobs added.
State Police declined to comment.
Apr 4th - 10:45 am
Both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s coalition of mayors pushing for new gun control laws praised this morning the passage of new firearms regulations in Connecticut, the state where 26 people were killed at an elementary school late last year.
Cuomo, of course, successfully pushed through the nation’s first gun control package in the wake of that school shooting.
A legislative fix was included in that law, known as the SAFE Act, as part of the 2013-14 state budget.
“I applaud Governor Malloy and the Connecticut legislature for taking bold new action to protect the people of their state,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Today, Connecticut joins New York and a growing collection of states that are proving we can pass tough, common sense gun control laws that protect our citizens and make us safer. The horror of the Newtown tragedy instilled a new urgency across our entire nation that we can no longer accept the unforgivable violence caused by allowing deadly weapons to fall into the hands of the most dangerous elements of our society. Now we need Congress to show the same courage as Connecticut, Colorado and New York, as well as follow the will of the American people, by taking strong action to stop these tragedies in our country.”
Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, meanwhile, which has been pushing for stronger background checks nationwide, praised the Connecticut law as well.
“As Americans of both political parties continue to demand action from our elected officials to reduce gun violence, states like Connecticut are taking the lead by passing commonsense gun safety reforms that will help save lives,” said Mayors Against Illegal Guns Co-Chair and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “The state’s legislators demonstrated their commitment to honoring the memory of those lost in Newtown – and I thank them and Governor Malloy for their leadership. Now we need lawmakers in Washington to follow suit so that we can protect communities – and children – across the country.”
Connecitcut is the third state to pass gun control legislation this year. Colorado, the site of a movie theater shooting over the summer, also passed a new package of gun control measures as well.
Mar 27th - 2:04 pm
The “indefinite” suspension of the enforcement of a ban on magazines carrying more than seven rounds might just remain a permanent one, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said in an interview that aired on Capital Tonight on Tuesday.
The final agreement on the state budget — which must still be approved by the Democratic-led Assembly on Thursday — will waive the April 15 effective date of the ban on magazines that can carry up to seven rounds.
The problem is most gun manufacturers do not make clips capable of carrying seven rounds. Cuomo had floated a possible compromise and “clarification” in the budget talks that would have allowed gun owners to keep the 10-round magazines, but load only seven bullets into the clip.
Gun owners who use their firearms for shooting competitions or at ranges may still load up to 10 rounds.
In the interview, Skelos said he doesn’t expect Cuomo to be willing to tweak that provision any further.
“I think the governor would prefer not to revisit it,” Skelos said. “It accomplishes I think what a lot of people were concerned about that there are not seven (round) clips made. So that will make sure that people can continue to legally purchase handguns, the clips will still be legal.”
Cuomo has insisted the move is not a scaling back of the gun control law, passed in the wake of the December 2012 school shooting in Connecticut, but simply a clarification in a deeply complex measure that ran nearly 80 pages.
The language inserted in the budget also clarifies that current law enforcement are exempt from the magazine provision as well.
Gun groups, however, reamin upset over the law, which includes an updated ban on assault weapons and a statewide handgun registry.
Skelos, who allowed a vote to go forward on the law alongside his Democratic Senate Co-President Jeff Klein, called the magazine provision an unintended error.
“We read the bill. There are always unintential consequences,” he said. “As I’ve said before, we acted in haste and we should learn from that.”
Mar 25th - 5:46 pm
The gun control law is tough enough, even if enforcing the ban on magazines that can carry more than seven rounds is being suspended for now, Senate Co-President Jeff Klein said.
“That was something even if we make the change, I think we still have a very tough gun law because remember even if they have a 10-round magazine, they still can only have seven bullets in it unless they’re at a gun range or at a shooting competition,” Klein told our NY1 colleague Zack Fink on Sunday.
The budget includes a provision that suspends the ban, which would have taken effect on April 15.
The law, known as the SAFE Act, also updates the state’s assault weapons ban and includes provisions for firearm registration.
That the law is still tough is something that both Klein and those opposed to the measure likely would agree on. Gun groups like the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association are seeking to overturn the measure in federal court.
Negotiations over the state budget included revising the magazine limitations, but had been dropped as legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought swift passage of the spending plan at the end.
That there’s no time element in the budget provision for when the ban would take effect suggests the Legislature and the governor may not be revisted in the future.
But the suspension of the enforcement date is also a compromise in that lawmakers who support the measure would not have to be forced in ultimately casting a vote on what many thought was scaling back the law. Cuomo insisted the move would have been a clarification.
For Klein’s part, he says he would have been uncomfortable casting any vote that would have dilluted the law.
“I stand by that legislation. I think the SAFE Act is the toughest gun control legislation in the nation. I was very proud to be a sponsor of that bill in the Senate I just only wish other states and the federal government enacted something as close in perfection to that bill.”
Liz will be sitting down with Klein this evening on Capital Tonight airing at 8 and for the encore at 11:30.
Mar 25th - 1:46 pm
An excerpt from today’s Morning Memo:
Ultimately, it will fall to the state’s legal defender – Attorney General Eric Schneiderman – to defend the SAFE Act in court.
That’s ironic, since Schneiderman is a long-time gun control advocate who championed a microstamping bill while serving in the state Senate and was a founding member in 2009 of state Legislators Against Illegal Guns – an offshoot of Mayor Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group.
But as AG, Schneiderman has also managed to work collaboratively with gun show operators, announcing earlier this month that 23 of them across the state had signed on to model procedures to close the so-called gun show loophole and ensure background checks are performed on all private firearms sales.
I caught up with Schneiderman at Somos el Futuro this weekend. (He sponsored a pre-gala reception along with state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli). I was curious whether the imminent modifications to the SAFE Act will make it more difficult to defend in court, since these changes tacitly acknowledged the original product was flawed and perhaps rushed into place.
His short answer: No.
His long answer:
“We have several different lawsuits challenging the SAFE Act. I’m very confident that we’ll prevail.
I defended New York’s last set of gun laws and our requirement that you have to show special purpose to get a concealed carry permit, which is unusual.
We defended that successfully, we’ll defend this one successfully.
The modifications are really very minor. Nothing have anything to do with the constitutionality. Look, New Yorkers deserve a safe set of procedures to ensure that people who have criminal backgrounds or mental health issues don’t get guns. That we’re not selling guns that are unnecessary for any sporting or target shooting purpose.
The SAFE Act is really the strongest and most comprehensive law in the country and I’m confident that it complies with every constitutional standard.
…process issues don’t effect the constitutionality and legitimacy of a law. There will be some minor modifications, but the law is going to stay 99 percent in tact. We will defend it. New York will be a safer state.”
Schneiderman insisted the SAFE Act is a “good, smart, comprehensive” law that should serve as an impetus to get Congress to act at the federal level to streamline the gun control effort.
He did allow, however, that the rapid passage of the Act had created a sense of “fear” among gun owners that they are under siege and being turned from law abiding members of society into criminal – especially if they refuse, as many have said they will, to register any weapon that is newly classified as illegal.
“That’s not what’s in the law,” Schneiderman said. “There is a little bit of fear and that is one of the problems when you rush something through.”
“It did happen very quickly. But that doesn’t effect the constitutionality and that doesn’t effect the merits. This is a good comprehensive law. We’ll defend it in court. I’m confident we’ll prevail.”
Schneiderman isn’t the only staunch gun control advocate admitting that perhaps Cuomo was a wee bit overzealous in his desire to be the first in the nation after Newtown to further restrict access to firearms.
Last week, Bloomberg – who just today started bankrolling a $12 million national advertising campaign in 13 states that focuses on US senators who he believes might be persuaded to support a pending package of federal regulations to curb gun violence – said complaints that Cuomo rushed the SAFE Act, resulting in a flawed law, are “legitimate.”
“…If they had taken a few more days to read and let some people who might have other information, at least, even if not other ideas, give some input, they could have fixed some of this stuff,” Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show with WOR’s John Gambling.
“And they would say, ‘Look, pass the bill. You can come back and fix it. It may look embarrassing in the paper but so what.’ And there’s something to be said for that. I guess I might have tried to take a few more days, but I certainly shouldn’t second-guess the governor.”
This probably did very little to improve the often rocky relationship with Bloomberg and Cuomo. And an anonymous Cuomo source retaliated at the mayor via Fred Dicker’s column this morning, saying:
“Much of what’s in the law was drafted by people connected to Mayor Bloomberg and the Brady Center, not by the governor’s staff. That’s why there are so many problems with it.”
Another interesting, though only marginally related tidbit from this morning’s headlines: Schneiderman has hired a new chief of staff to replace Neal Kwatra, who departed the public payroll to hang out his own political consulting shingle last month.
Kwatra’s replacement is Micah Lasher, who just so happens to be Bloomberg’s former Albany lobbyist – and someone who clashed frequently with the Cuomo administration, not to mention organized labor.
That’s an interesting choice for the AG, who is loved by labor and viewed as the lefty counterpoint to Cuomo. He’s also often battling behind the scenes with the Cuomo administration, even as he defends its policies – like, say, the SAFE Act – in court.
Mar 21st - 2:00 pm
The New York State Rifle And Pistol Association filed a lawsuit in federal court in Buffalo earlier today that seeks to overturn the state’s gun control law approved in January.
The lawsuit takes a variety of issues with the gun control law, including equal protection claims and complaints over essentially granting a monopoly to New York ammunition sale as well as second amendment violations.
From the suit:
The Act’s limitation of magazine capacity to 7 rounds or 10 rounds, depending on when they were obtained, and the Act‟s prohibition on loading more than 7 rounds in any magazine, facially and as applied, infringe on the right of the people, including plaintiffs, to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment, and as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, of the United States Constitution.
In addition to the NYSRPA, which acts a New York chapter of the National Rifle Association, freshman Assemblyman Bill Nojay is also listed as a plaintiff on the suit.
Mar 21st - 12:47 pm
As lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo set aside thorny policy issues in order to announce a state spending plan, the effective date for a ban on high-capacity magazines that can carry more than seven rounds could be suspended, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said after meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo today.
“There might be just a suspension of the April 15 date to avoid any crisis and give us the ability to keep moving on that,” Silver said.
It’s something a shift from yesterday, when legislative leaders indicated that changes and clarifications to the January gun control law known as the SAFE Act could be dealt with in a chapter amendment that also looked at exempting retired law enforcement from the measure.
“It became very complicated and we wanted to do the minimalist on the other stuff and give us until June to deal with a lot of those issues,” Silver said today.
The SAFE Act became a side conversation in the budget negotiations as marijuana decriminlization for New York City also came up in order to stem stop and frisk arrests.
The change would allow 10-round magazines, but only seven bullets may be loaded into the clip. Ten rounds would be allowed for shooting ranges and competitions.
Cuomo has insisted the move is a clarification and not a wholesale scaling back of the law, which is a signature achievement for him so far legislatively this year.
Legislative leaders after speaking with the governor are insisting they want to focus on fiscal issues.
“We’re really just finalizing and fine tuning some budget items,” Senate Co-President Jeff Klein said.
Lawmakers are expected to vote on the budget Saturday and into Sunday. A rare Saturday legislative session has been scheduled for both houses at around 4 p.m.
Silver said it is possible that some bills may not be printed in time for the Saturday session.
Some bills may not even be ready by Sunday to be voted on, Silver said, making Monday a possible session day as well. Cuomo has said he does not want to issue a message of necessity to waive the three-day aging process.
Lawmakers are not scheduled to return to Albany until April 15, when that component of the gun control law takes effect.
“Right now we are focused directly on the budget,” Silver said. “These are issues we can do now or before the legislative session concludes in June.”