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Jefferson County legislators plan to take time in opposing NY SAFE Act

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Despite swift movement by its neighbors, the Jefferson County Board of Legislators is sticking to its guns for a slow and measured approach to opposing the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013.

Last week, county legislators began discussing the prospect of drafting a resolution opposing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s legislation, which provides some of the strictest gun control regulations in the country, based on a resolution proposed by the Ulster County Republican caucus.

In the meantime, Lewis and Oswego counties’ lawmakers unanimously passed similar resolutions this week.

Legislator Robert D. Ferris, R-Watertown, who initially suggested the resolution following a series of emails from concerned constituents, said the board was “sticking to the plan.”

Mr. Ferris said Thursday that although he brought the idea forward, it was on virtually every Jefferson County legislator’s mind.

Though not everyone voiced unstinting support for the resolution, all legislators seemed to agree the bill was enacted too hastily and the resolution is expected to meet little resistance as it winds its way through the board’s procedures.

When Mr. Ferris began building support for the resolution, he said he was determined to see it work through the committee process.

That was a conviction echoed by many of his colleagues.

“I don’t want to see it rushed through. I don’t want to be accused of doing what the governor did,” said Legislator John D. Peck, R-Great Bend, who had questions about the law’s mental health and personal property aspects.

“If somebody has a mental health issue at some point in their lives that is taken care of and the doctor and the judge sign off on it ... what happens to their property? Is it returned to them? Are they ever even compensated for having their property taken from them? I do not feel it is correct to have somebody’s property taken away from them (without compensation) for something that is out of their control,” Mr. Peck said.

Legislator James A. Nabywaniec, R-Calcium, said the hastily passed bill, which was bad “from the get-go,” did not adequately address the complex mental health issues or costs at the county level associated with implementing state-mandated controls.

Joining its member counties, the New York State Association of Counties passed a resolution last week during its annual conference calling on Gov. Cuomo and the state Legislature to address issues related to county costs and implementation of provisions related to mental health and record keeping.

In six paragraphs, NYSAC outlined its concerns about the costs that would be incurred by county mental health agencies to comply with the law.

The resolution argues requiring the county to review and investigate reports about potentially dangerous patients from mental health professionals and report validated findings to the Department of Criminal Justice Services would “require county governments to increase staff and would significantly increase local costs.”

According to state Department of Health hospitalization data, more than 210,000 psychiatric unit discharges occurred in 2010 — discharges that may now have to be tracked by local government, the resolution asserts.

The resolution also argues the cost incurred by county clerks and sheriff’s departments to comply with the provisions concerning recertification of permitswould also increase local government costs and workload and asks the NY SAFE Act be amended to address the Mental Health Hygiene Law and permit recertifications.

Legislator Philip N. Reed Sr., R-Fishers Landing, who chairs the General Services Committee, said the resolution would go to at least one committee before coming to the full board and it would be up to Chairwoman Carolyn D. Fitzpatrick, R-Watertown, to determine how the resolution would proceed.

During Tuesday night’s board meeting, which was attended by several members of the community interested in the county’s position opposing the NY SAFE Act, Mr. Peck introduced a resolution he had crafted himself.

The resolution, recorded by the clerk of the board, County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III, will be considered for assignment to a committee.

The resolution’s Ulster County version went before the county’s Law Enforcement and Public Safety Committee on Feb. 5. The bill received the committee’s unanimous support, according to Ulster County Legislator Craig V. Lopez, and will go before the full board Tuesday.

Orange County legislators also passed a similar resolution Feb. 7, which the board called in a video of the proceedings posted to YouTube “a resolution in support of the Second Amendment.”

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