Republicans in the State Senate are again introducing legislation challenging New York's so-called SAFE Act. Local State Senator Robert Ortt is among those sponsoring a bill that would remove many provisions of Governor Cuomo's law outside of New York City. The Lieutenant Governor, meanwhile, defended the law, saying that it's working.
Ortt has co-sponsored legislation to counter the SAFE Act before. This version, if approved, would repeal numerous key provisions of the law in Upstate New York and Long Island, including the five-year recertification requirement for pistol permits, restrictictions on the transfer of gun ownership to family members and the law's definition of an assault weapon. The latter would be replaced with a previous statutory definition.
The SAFE Act would remain intact in the five boroughs of New York City. Ortt told WBFO what may work in New York City does not outside the big city.
"A lot of people in rural New York, Upstate New York, feel that folks in New York City or in Albany don't understand their way of life," Ortt said. "It's a different culture, a different feeling towards gun ownership. And the way it was passed, in the middle of the night without any debate, I think has continued to be a very controversial and divisive issue."
Ortt added that he has yet to see any statistics which demonstrate the SAFE Act has directly contributed to any decreases in violent crime.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, during a visit to Buffalo Thursday, was asked her opinion of the proposed legislation. She said it would be premature to comment on the just-introduced bill but did defend Governor Cuomo's SAFE Act, saying it has worked to keep guns out of the hands of people with prior violent criminal convictions and others who may not be fit to handle firearms responsibly, such as some living with mental illness.
She also says the SAFE Act has proven not to be what many passionate gun rights supporters feared it would be.
"When I think about the SAFE Act and all the concerns that were out there, the impact on local county clerks and the volume of work, all sorts of regulations, some much of that has just gone away," Hochul said. "The passage of time makes people realize they still have their guns. No one's taking their rights away. We don't intend to in the State of New York.
"We just want to have smart legislation. That's exactly what we have on the books."