Empire State sheriffs, Cuomo SAFE Act showdown
The governor of New York and his state’s sheriffs are locking horns over their opposition to the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013.
“As sheriffs it is our duty and obligation to speak out against laws that do not promote the public good,” said Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith, legislative committee chairman of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association. NYSSA is a not-for-profit corporation, formed in 1934, for the purpose of assisting sheriffs in the efficient and effective delivery of sheriffs’ services to the public.
Sheriffs across the state from each political persuasion have a myriad of concerns with respect to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature law, he said. “Shortly after the law was passed, I led a meeting with 52 of the 58 sheriffs where we reached a consensus to sign a letter to Cuomo expressing our position,” said Smith, whose term as president ended, but was still leading the NYSSA when the governor signed the law Jan. 15.
At stake is a basic, fundamental right of our citizens to defend themselves, he said. “The Declaration of Independence and our governing document – the Constitution – are put at risk if citizens are stripped of their rights.”
An Albany political insider with ties to the sheriffs’ association said that several sheriffs advised him that Cuomo threatened to retaliate against them for speaking out against the SAFE Act. “One told me under condition of anonymity that all the county sheriffs are under Cuomo’s threat of personal and prolonged political attack should they continue to speak out.”
Human Events requested comments from Cuomo’s press office, but there was no response at deadline.
Smith, who is a retired Army general, said, “The Second Amendment is about good citizens protecting themselves from threats upon their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
The SAFE Act penalizes law abiding citizens and gives criminals an asset, he said. “Drug dealers, gang members, and felons are not going to abide by this law leaving gun owners at a disadvantage against better armed criminals.”
Putnam County is the most well-armed county in the state yet has the lowest crime rate for the past three consecutive years, he said. “We have solid proof that arming innocent citizens works.”
Smith said he feels so strongly about changing the new law that through the sheriffs’ association and individually they have joined the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association lawsuit against the state. “We as public officials have the duty to oppose, change, and craft a better law.”
NYSRPA filed an action against New York State on Jan. 29 for being in violation of the U.S. and New York State Constitutions during the passage and enforcement of the SAFE Act. NYSRPA is the state’s largest and the nation’s oldest firearms advocacy organization.
The action is before federal Judge William Skretney in the Western District of New York.
Brian T. Stapleton, partner at Goldberg Segalla LLP, an Albany law firm that is representing NYSFPA confirmed that the judge granted the sheriff association’s petition to file an amicus brief, and an amicus brief was filed.
An amicus brief does not add the petitioning party to the action, but it gives them an opportunity to be heard, he said. “It is called a friend of the court brief which is more like an advisory position.”
“We expect amicus briefs to be filed from the state’s side as well,” he said.
“There was no input from the sheriffs in drafting this law,” said Dr. Stephen M. Katz, a state assemblyman representing parts of Westchester, Putnam and Duchess Counties.
Cuomo is showing himself to be a cowardly bully, he said. “He is a coward for bypassing the normal 3-day vetting procedure, and a bully for attempting to silence the members of the state’s sheriffs’ association.”
By shutting out debate in drafting the bill, Cuomo vastly miscalculated, he said. “His perception is that his rush-efforts advance his political aspirations.”
Katz said Cuomo is finished. “It was a political mistake that will severely damage his career.”
There is little likelihood that repeal measures submitted in the state legislature will be debated on the floor, he said.
“The repeal bills will never get through committee,” he said. “It will be up to the leaders to bring the bill for a vote – there are no guarantees,” he said.
The law is so poorly devised, that no amendment can fix it, said the Bronx County veterinarian.
For example, lawmakers debated an amendment that would allow police officers to exceed theseven-round ammunition limit, Katz said. “I voted against it because it creates a separate class of people for those who can carry and for those regular people who cannot.”
In addition, amendments may dilute the chances of a judge ruling that the SAFE Act is unconstitutional, he said. “We want full repeal.”
There are various actions that have been filed against the state, he said. “Until we hear from the court on the legal issues, the legislature should do nothing.”
Katz said, “If it is determined that the SAFE Act is constitutional, then we can chip away bill by bill, amendment by amendment.”
Watch this video of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signing the SAFE Act: