ADA Will Zickl
A police officer doesn't always need to write a ticket after making a traffic stop, nor does an officer need to arrest somebody suspected of violating the SAFE Act, Sheriff Gary Maha told members of Genesee County SCOPE at a packed meeting Tuesday night.
Maha said he's obligated under the oath of his office to uphold the law and if the Sheriff's Office receives a complaint about a possible violation of the SAFE Act, a deputy is required to investigate the complaint. It will be up to the deputy to decide whether an arrest is in order.
"An officer has the ability to exercise discretion and that's what we're going to do in Genesee County," Maha said.
His comments prompted applause from SCOPE members.
Maha, along with County Clerk Don Read, Assistant District Attorney Will Zickl and Undersheriff William Sheron were guests of SCOPE at its regular monthly meeting.
Zickl opened the discussion by recapping a recent court decision by U.S. District Court Judge William M. Skretny upholding much of the SAFE Act, or as Zickl called it repeatedly, "the so-called SAFE Act," and overturning others.
Skretny ruled the ban on assault rifles constitutional but threw out the limit on seven rounds in a magazine.
Zickl said the ruling was full of flawed logic.
"I hope there is some other court somewhere who tells him so," Zickl said.
The ruling only applies to the jurisdiction of Skretny's court, which is Western New York.
Read spent some time discusing a provision of the SAFE Act that requires all pistol permits to be recertified every five years.
The process, especially the first time around, is going to be burdensome and bureaucratic and to help get a jump on the process, the state is going to start sending out letters to pistol permit holders soon telling them to apply immediately for recertification. The first pilot project will begin soon in Albany County.
However, what the letters won't tell the holders, nor will any other state literature on the topic, Read said, is that recertification isn't required until 2018.
Read said he doesn't know what the state will do if permit holders simply don't respond to the early recertification request.
The state recently contacted all county clerks and asked if the clerks would like the county seal placed on letterhead sent to pistol permit holders informing them of the recertification process. Read said he told state officials no, but he and other county clerks are concerned the state will use county seals anyway.
Courtland County's Legislature has approved a resolution telling the state not to use its seal. Ray Cianfrini, the new chairman of the Genesee County Legislature, told SCOPE members that the local body will take up a similar resolution and he expects it to pass easily.
That brought another round of applause from SCOPE members.
SCOPE President Bill Fox raised a concern about a provision in the law that would require any pistol permit holder who loses his or her permit for any reason to turn in to State Police all of his or her guns, even rifles and shotguns.
"It's like a backdoor to take away the rest of your guns," Fox said.
Zickl said, "It's a very substantial and very troubling amendment to the law," adding, "you don't have to be too paranoid to be worried about that section of the law."
During his remarks, Maha noted that the governor proudly trumpeted a few weeks ago that so far there have been 1,291 arrests under the SAFE Act in New York.
"What he doesn't tell you is 1,029 were made in New York City," Maha said.
There have been no SAFE Act arrests in Genesee County, Maha said, and only a couple in the neighboring rural counties.
"The law doesn't make sense for Upstate," Maha said. "It was written by the people in New York City who don't know anything about guns because all they know is Downstate and down there guns kill people, so guns are evil. That's not true for us. We were brought up with guns. We hunt with them. We shoot targets with them, but that's not true if you're in New York City."
Sheriff Gary Maha, County Clerk Don Read and Assistant District Attorney Will Zickl.
A hand raised above the crowd during a Q&A portion of the meeting.
Bob Wilson asked a couple of questions, including asking why Genesee County doesn't secede from the rest of New York. Ray Cianfrini, chairman of the Legislature, encouraged SCOPE members to support Assemblyman Steve Hawley's bill, which Hawley introduces every year, calling for a referendum on splitting New York in two. When the question was repeated, Cianfrini said, with a touch of a smile, "I don't think Genesee County will be seceding by itself."
Also, tomorrow, on the one year anniversary of the SAFE Act becoming law, one member of SCOPE said everybody who supports repeal of the SAFE Act should call the governor's office tomorrow and respectfully request the SAFE Act be repealed. The governor's office phone number is (518) 474-8390.