The New York State Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE Act) has brought several people together to fight the law proposed by Republican Sen. Martin Golden, from Brooklyn, in January.
People on both sides of the argument see the positives and negatives to this law. Since its passing on Jan. 15 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 34 counties have passed resolutions against the law as of March 3, according to NY SAFE Resolutions. The website tracks county and town resolutions against the NY SAFE Act.
Oswego County legislator Terry Wilbur, who represents the 21st district in Hannibal, sponsored a bill that was passed by the legislature calling for the repeal of the new law. The resolution passed 25-0 last month. Wilbur said that the legislature is simply standing up for its constituents.
“The county constituents came to us and this is what we feel,” Wilbur said.
While this, at its basic level appears to be a down state versus upstate argument, Wilbur argues that is not the case.
“This is not about upstate versus downstate, it’s about what’s right,” Wilbur said.
Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, says that gun death rates are higher upstate than they are downstate.
“This is because upstate gun ownership is higher,” Gunn Barrett said.
Gunn Barrett cited a study conducted by the Violence Policy Center based on 2010 data. The study shows that Alaska has the highest gun death rate per 100,000 people with 20.28. Alaska’s gun ownership is 60.6 percent, but not the highest of those with high gun death rates. In the top five highest gun death rates listed, Wyoming leads the ownership rates with 62.8 percent. They have 16.32 deaths per 100,000, placing them at number five on the list. New York, on the other hand, ranked 46th with 5.22 deaths per 100,000 and an 18.1 percent gun ownership rate.
Overall, the U.S. leads the world in gun ownership with approximately 89 civilian firearms out every 100 residents, according to a 2011 Small Firearms Survey study. The next closest on the list was Yemen with approximately 55 civilian firearms out of every 100 residents.
The new law has been hailed as the strictest of gun laws in the country and calls for universal background checks. According to Cuomo’s webpage on the law, this closes a loophole in private sales and requires all transactions with guns to be conducted through a federal firearms licensee except when the transaction is between family members. Wilbur agrees with this provision.
“I’m all for background checks,” Wilbur said. “I’m OK with that.”
Wilbur claims that the law hurts law-abiding citizens.
“We don’t want the government telling law abiding citizens not to [bear arms],” Wilbur said.
Jenny Lando of the New York City chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said that they are “not attempting to repeal the 2nd Amendment.”
“It’s about removing guns that belong in the theater of war, not in the hands of criminals,” Lando said. She said that her organization has a visual campaign right now that invites their supporters to cut out eight paper dolls that represent the eight children who are shot and killed each day.
Part of the problem for Wilbur is that the law was rushed. He argues that the rushed legislation took away the people’s opportunity to speak up about the law, which is key to democracy.
“I was a poli-sci major here at Oswego and I don’t want to see the democratic system go down the tubes,” Wilbur said. “That’s not how government is supposed to run.”
Oswego County Legislator Jacob Mulcahey, who represents the City of Oswego, said that the law was passed “too fast at the state level.” He also noted that the state legislature is now scrambling to make changes to the law.
Mulcahey is the only member of the Democrat party who is on the Government, Courts and Consumer Affairs Committee who voted on the resolution against NY SAFE Act. He said that he “thought a lot about it” and after receiving phone calls from his constituents,. he voted for the resolution.
“There’s lots of sportsmen and gun owners in the constituents opposing Gov. Cuomo’s law,” Mulcahey said. “It was an issue for me.”
All representatives of Oswego in the State Assembly and Senate voted against the NY SAFE Act. Both passed by considerable amounts in both groups of state Congress. The resolution passed in the Assembly 104-43 and the Senate 43-18.
While the argument is already almost two months old, there appears to be no end in sight for the battle over gun control laws. Lando said that the Moms Take the Hill event will happen in Washington D.C. on March 13. Lando said that the group will meet with representatives from their districts throughout the day campaigning for gun controls in the U.S.
“It’s not about politics,” Wilbur said. “It’s about what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Gunn Barrett would like for more people to look at the facts rather than jumping to conclusions too quickly.
“I wish people would pay attention to what the facts are saying,” Gunn Barrett said.