Republican Assembly members Michael Montesano (Glen Head), Raymond Walter (Amherst), Steve Hawley (Batavia), Jane Corwin (Clarence), David DiPietro (East Aurora) and Joseph Giglio (Gowanda) led a legislative hearing Friday at the Amherst Town Hall Council Chamber in Williamsville concerning the implementation of the recently enacted SAFE Act. Present at the hearing were representatives from the county sheriffs and county clerks and mental health professionals based in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Erie, Monroe, Niagara and Wayne Counties.
The SAFE Act, Gov. Cuomo's gun-control legislation, has proven to be highly controversial and difficult for local governments and law enforcement officials to put into effect. This problem was magnified recently when a resident of Amherst was wrongly targeted for weapons confiscation due to the SAFE Act. As the ranking minority member on the Assembly Oversight Committee, Montesano conducted this hearing, the second of three statewide, in order to best determine what the proper protocol for government adherence to the SAFE Act is for local governments, and which aspects of the SAFE Act have been costly, ineffective and difficult to enact.
"We need to ensure that the SAFE Act isn't making it more difficult for our county officials, mental health professionals and law enforcement officers to conduct their already demanding jobs," Montesano said. "If the SAFE Act is limiting the abilities of our localities to perform their jobs in the manner New Yorkers need them to be performed, then it is my obligation as a state official to know that and deliver the message to Albany that this legislation needs to be adjusted accordingly.
"I thank the sheriffs, clerks and mental health professionals from across Central New York who testified today at this hearing. Their testimony is crucial in giving both myself and my colleagues in the Assembly a better understanding of what we can do to better address mental wellness and violence in our communities."
"We must ensure that our citizen's civil rights are being protected. Unfortunately, I believe we are seeing poor results from a poor law that was passed in a poor way," Walter said. "Legislation as sweeping and life-changing as the New York SAFE Act needs to be dissected and discussed, and should have been done proactively and transparently. My constituents have been directly affected by the mistakes and confusion that exists in this law. It's about time we get down to business with local officials, mental health professionals, and responsible gun owners to figure out how this law needs to be changed."
"I understand the many concerns of the public with the New York SAFE Act, and I agree that the irresponsible process in which this law was passed, along with the inadequacies, ineffectiveness and infringements seeded in the context of the legislation as a whole, does not benefit New York state residents," Corwin said. "The act already has caused confusion and misidentification in attempts to revoke legal firearms. That is why it is important to continue to have open discussions with the public on this matter, and work to correct some of these errors in an effort to protect our children while they are in school; restore the fundamental Constitutional rights of our citizens; and also clarify mental health reporting and law enforcement's role in enforcing the new laws. In the coming weeks, I will be introducing a comprehensive replacement package to the New York SAFE Act that will aim to rectify the problems that have been realized since its passage."