'Shall not be infringed': Niagara County Legislature unanimously opposes NY SAFE Act
by Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
Niagara County lawmakers spoke with one voice Tuesday night as they unanimously backed a trio of resolutions opposing New York state's radical new gun control law, the NY SAFE Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo just weeks ago.
Following an impassioned address by Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, who authored a resolution urging the complete repeal of the law, county legislators voted 14-0 in favor of calling for the law to be scrapped. Legislator Jason Zona, D-Niagara Falls, was absent.
The bill was originally sponsored by Syracuse, Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, and Legislator Michael A. Hill, R-Middleport. By the time Syracuse had finished speaking, all 12 members of the Legislature's Majority Caucus had signed on as co-sponsors.
As he began his remarks, Syracuse left little doubt where he stood on the Cuomo gun control laws.
"Let me begin by saying four very clear words: 'Shall not be infringed,' " Syracuse said, to loud applause from a legislative chamber packed with gun rights supporters who came out to show their support for county lawmakers' actions. "Now, I don't know how our Founding Fathers could have been any clearer here. 'The right' - the right! - 'to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.' And yet, our State Legislature has done just that. Our governor has done just that."
Syracuse offered a detailed rebuttal of the Cuomo gun control law, pointing to both Constitutional and legal precedent and recent U.S. Supreme Court case law on the subject.
"Here in Niagara County, we've always preferred our Constitution as it is written," Syracuse told the packed room, before noting that Article XII of the New York State Constitution and Article 2, Section 4, of the New York Civil Rights Law laid out similar defenses of firearms ownership to the U.S. Constitution. "Apparently actually reading the state constitution and state law was too much for our state government."
The Newfane lawmaker also pointed to two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases - District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago - that affirmed an individual right to keep and bear arms and explicitly blocked both state and federal entities from enacting statutes that significantly interfere with that right.
Syracuse and Updegrove both took state leaders to task for the process by which the Cuomo gun control law was rushed through the Senate and Assembly.
"The process by which the SAFE Act passed was an obscene aberration of the normal legislative process," Updegrove told those in attendance. "Regardless of your thoughts on the right to possess and bear firearms, as citizens of the state of New York, you were disrespected by the governor. When the process is changed, when there is an aberration, it is disrespectful to every citizen."
Syracuse summed up the anger of many in the room, frustrated by a law that turned law-abiding citizens into criminals overnight.
"Understand, we are not reflexively opposed to any law that actually makes our citizens safer, provided they respect the Constitution and original intent, but the SAFE Act does neither," Syracuse said. "It makes our state a safer environment for criminals - who are strangely undeterred by gun control laws - and it shreds the constitutional rights of our citizens."
Niagara County lawmakers also voted unanimously to urge the state to scrap both a five-year pistol permit renewal scheme found in the SAFE Act and to enact a law that shields the identities of pistol permit holders without requiring pistol permit holders to file "opt out" paperwork and provide a reason that their private information should be withheld from prying eyes.
Copies of the resolutions are bound for Cuomo's office, as well as the leadership of both the Senate and Assembly and every member of the Western New York delegation to the State Legislature. Syracuse also requested copies of the resolutions be forwarded to the CEOs of New York-based firearms manufacturers, a group whose interests the Cuomo administration disregarded when they pushed the gun control legislation through the State Legislature.