Several local members of state legislative delegation hosted a forum in Buffalo Wednesday on Governor Andrew Cuomo's new SAFE Act, which contains the toughest gun control measures in the nation.
The session was called to discuss issues of "mental health, school safety, gun violence and general public safety." The coalition heard testimony from experts in the fields of school psychology and mental health care, educators, law enforcement and Second Amendment advocates about the correlation of these factors and what measures can be taken by the state to improve the safety citizens.
Critics questioned the lack of process and discussion before the bill's passage last month. Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard, a Republican, told the panel he believes Cuomo rushed the legislation to enhance his own public image, not to improve public safety.
"He capitalized on hysteria following several tragic events committed by individuals with mental illness. The legislation was reckless and irresponsible. It has caused panic and concern among law-abiding people. It's caused limited government resources to be wasted studying this and reassuring the public about it," Howard said.
Erie County Clerk Christopher Jacobs said mandatory gun registration will put an undue burden on the staff in the Clerk's Office. With no aid from Albany to pay for the program, Jacobs says the SAFE Act is an unfunded mandate.
"This new law imposes a significant cost on local taxpayers, the definition of an unfunded mandate. The workload becomes so unmanageable that it becomes essentially impossible for a law-abiding citizen to obtain a pistol permit within a reasonable amount of time, thus a direct infringement on a constitutional right," Jacobs said.
Jacobs, also a Republican, said since the SAFE Act was passed last month, overtime costs have increased because the pistol permit division has had a quadrupling of customers.
Among the legislators hosting the forum at the Mahoney State Office Building in Buffalo were Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R,C,I-Clarence), Assemblymen John D. Ceretto (R,I,C-Lewiston), Raymond Walter (R,C,I-Amherst), David DiPietro (R,C-East Aurora), Steve Hawley (R,I,C-Batavia), Joseph M. Giglio (R,I,C-Gowanda) and Andy Goodell (R,C,I-Chautauqua).
Some legislators, including DiPietro, say they will seek repeal of the law.
Representatives from the Erie County Mental Health Association, National Association of School Psychologists, Erie County Association of School Boards, SCOPE and Niagara Gun Range were among the organizations who presented testimony. Written testimony was also provided by Children’s Mental Health Association and WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center.