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Massena board shoots down SAFE Act repeal resolution

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By TIM FENSTER

MASSENA — Town board members agree that the NY SAFE Act is flawed, was rushed through Albany and needs reworking, but are divided on how to correct the problems they see in the state’s recent package of gun control laws.

Area resident William Gray recently presented the Town Council with a resolution calling on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to repeal the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, saying the swiftly passed bill is filled with errors and inconsistencies and infringes upon the rights of law-biding gun owners. He called the controversial package of strict gun control measures a “knee-jerk reaction to the Sandy Hook shooting.”

Councilman John F. Macaulay agreed that the overnight passage of the SAFE Act may have left the bill with a number of inconsistent and questionable provisions that should be re-evaluated. But Mr. Macaulay said he felt the bill shouldn’t be repealed, because a repeal would do away with aspects of the bill that might reasonably prevent violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners.

“When you repeal legislation, you get rid of the good language (as well). The solution isn’t to repeal it; it’s to fix the bad language in it,” Mr. Macaulay said.

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray agreed with Mr. Macaulay, saying the speedy passage of the bill didn’t allow legislators to consult with firearms, hunting and law enforcement experts, but he doesn’t want to repeal aspects of the bill they may find sensible and effective.

“The people who write these laws don’t know a lot about guns. They think they do, but they don’t,” Mr. Gray said. “There are parts of the bill that stink, and there are parts of the bill that are good.”

A collector of antique firearms, Mr. Gray said he’d run into a number of issues and uncertainties with the state’s gun laws after the SAFE Act went into effect. He used the example of an M1 carbine, a light semiautomatic rifle designed for U.S. forces in World War II. His antique M1 rifle uses a 15-round magazine and has a lug on the barrel, which could be used to mount a bayonet — both of which are illegal under the new law. Mr. Gray said he had to call state legislators to find out that the weapon, being more than 50 years old, was considered a collector’s item, so it is legal and does not have to be registered with the state.

He also pointed out that a provision of the law says that it’s illegal to load more than seven rounds into any magazine, with some exceptions for competitions and shooting ranges — but initially did not make an exception for law enforcement officers, who typically carry semiautomatic handguns with magazines that carry more than seven rounds.

William Gray disagreed, saying he wanted the law fully repealed. He also said he is no stranger to gun violence. He said he lost a son to gun violence in 1988 on the streets of Buffalo. His son was 3 years old when he died.

“I didn’t want the government to take my guns away. I wanted justice,” William Gray said.

Albert N. Nicola, a hunter and a gun owner, said he was highly critical of the SAFE Act, but he felt it was the council’s duty to read William Gray’s resolution carefully, to avoid making the same mistake he believes legislators in Albany made.

“We didn’t have the chance to read this. That’s what he is saying Albany did,” Mr. Nicola said.

Mr. Macaulay, who does not own any guns, was skeptical of the criticism against the SAFE Act, particularly criticism based on the types of weapons outlawed by the act and the notion that the act interferes with recreational hunting.

“What in the law will prevent a person from going hunting?” he asked. “No one can point to one day that they would be prevented from hunting” because of the NY SAFE Act.

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