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Sheriff tells SCOPE members that SAFE Act enforcement is a matter of officer discretion

By Howard B. Owens

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.

Doug Yeomans

I want to know why repeal is so difficult. Public outcry against the SAFE act is loud and clear, but what the people want is obviously irrelevant. The fact that what the people want is totally irrelevant to our elected leaders should scare the hell out of everybody. Elected officials are supposed to carry out the will of the people, not dictate to them.

Jan 15, 2014, 4:02am Permalink
John Roach

Unless the people who voted for this are voted out this November, you have your answer.

Public outcry will be determined at the ballot box. If gun owners get out and vote, we have a chance at repeal. If they stay home, then we have to hope the courts overturn it later. We'll see how upset gun owners really are in November.

Jan 15, 2014, 6:30am Permalink
Doug Yeomans

Vote for anyone outside of the Democrat or Republican parties. They both are responsible for this mess we're in. The only way to shake things up and escape from the same ol' same ol' is to vote for someone willing to represent the people constitutionally.

Jan 15, 2014, 7:33am Permalink
Doug Yeomans

I hear you loud and clear, John and I agree totally. Voter turnout in this country is usually abysmal, and people wonder what they have to eat so much crap. In countries where people risk being killed in the voter lines, they turn out in droves.

Jan 15, 2014, 8:25am Permalink
Tom Frew

People are encouraged this Saturday to participate in the Rally protesting the NYS Safe Act from 11 am to 1 pm at the Troop A State Police Barracks in Batavia. Genesee County SCOPE is sponsoring the event. Parking will be on the west side of the facility.

Jan 15, 2014, 11:36am Permalink
terry paine

The only thing that will happen from voting out these anti-freedom, gun hating bureaucrats is a group of gun-loving, freedom hating bureaucrats will take their place.

Jan 15, 2014, 12:51pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

Okay...let me get this straight: the same segment of our population, so distrustful of government, asserting that agents of government will confiscate arms designated defense against that government, have acquiesced to the "discretion" of a deputy and will participate in a rally at the troopers' barracks???? I hear the 'Twilight Zone' theme playing.

Jan 15, 2014, 3:13pm Permalink
Jim Rosenbeck

Jeff, I don't want to speak for Terry and I don't necassarily agree that gun loving and freedom hating are synonomous. That being said, I could make a pretty compelling argument that the republicans are as entrenched in controlling our behavior as the democrats. Look no further than the republicans record in supporting the Patriot Act and NDAA if you will. Furthermore, when is the last time you heard a republican speak out against the NYS Pistol Permit system? It seems somewhat hypocritical to me for the republicans to champion the second amendment (and court votes from SCOPE) while accepting the greatest violation of our second amendment rights, the NYS pistol permit sales business. At least the democrats are consistent. They want to have the same rigid restrictions for long rifles and hand guns. The republicans seem pretty willing to accept fundemental infringements on the right to posess handguns. I just don't understand how they reconcile that with their public support of the second amendment. So, I remain wary of them. Seems to me if you are pro second amendment then it would follow logically that you would support the appeal of the NYS pistol permit mandate too. I am all for background checks to purchase guns and want to keep guns out of the hands of violent felons and the mentally ill . I don't believe that the SAFe Act or the NYS Pistol permit law accomplishes those goals though. So for me. If I am voting for a D or an R, it is just a choice on who's leash I want to be on.

Jan 15, 2014, 8:19pm Permalink
terry paine

"That being said, I could make a pretty compelling argument that the republicans are as entrenched in controlling our behavior as the democrats."

Thanks Jim. Deb told me that's what I should have said.

Jan 15, 2014, 6:18pm Permalink
Kyle Couchman

I have always felt that in the last decade the R or D or whatever by a politician's name only told you what lies fantasies you were going to hear. Once in office there was never much distinction in their actions...

Jan 15, 2014, 6:31pm Permalink
Jim Rosenbeck

"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."

Dear Mr. Wilson,
If Mr. Cianfrini were to be perfectly candid, he would have smiled and said, "even though we don't support the Governor on this issue, there are considerable benefits bestowed upon the second most powerful party. Any attempt to disrupt the status quo would not be in the best interest of the republican party.

Jan 15, 2014, 8:33pm Permalink
Don Lovelace

One guy there asked: what would happen if we all just refused to comply with the law(paraphrased). I suppose for that to happen someone would have to be the first one to refuse compliance. That person would have to be very brave, and that person may not exist at this time. Is it time we(I) just said no more. I don't believe waving signs at a rally or signing a petition has any affect on the politicians mind set. They make too much money doing it the way they do it now and nothing will stop them, unless the money faucet can somehow be shut off.

Jan 15, 2014, 9:35pm Permalink
Brian Graz

Now if we can put away the time wasting effort of partisan bashing, and focus on the objective of this movement... to get rid of the Constitution Infringing SAFE Act, and ALL those politicians who helped bring it upon us... Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Once we succeed we can then take on getting the Pistol Permit requirement repealed, because logically that is equally an Infringement on the 2nd Amendment.

Jan 15, 2014, 11:15pm Permalink
Kyle Slocum

Late to the game, but.

The SAFE Act arbitrarily bans cosmetic features of some guns. God, I hope I never get shot with a gun with a pistol grip or an adjustable stock. That HAS to hurt a hell of a lot more.

ASSAULT WEAPON SCAM. That is what it is. A SCAM. If you don't get that, you may be electable as a Democrat.

I become more and more disgusted with the Democrat Party every day. If they actually cared about the dead bodies in the streets of American cities, they would propose and pass laws that would actually help. But, instead, they fight for laws which are ridiculous on their face and cannot possibly help the situation in our cities.

Remove the incentive for the criminal class to possess and use weapons in their pursuit of their criminal lifestyle:

15 real years in prison for using a gun in a felony crime. Not 15 years, with five years off for "good behavior" the day they arrive. No plea bargains on using a gun in a felony offense. No furloughs. A real honest hard 15 years.

25 real years in prison for using a gun in an assault. Same constraints as above.

Fix the city schools. Remove the violent and disruptive students. Get them into special school environments that can provide them with the structure and counseling they need. Free the classroom from the disruptions and intimidation that inhibits the learning of our next generation of leaders and innovators. Check out the rankings of our city schools: BOTTOM OF THE LIST. There is no excuse. But, I assure you the Party has several, all beginning with give us more money!

Before you bitch about disparate impact on minority communities of these proposals I demand you address the disparate impact on minority communities of the victimization by these felons and public schools. Why is there so much sympathy for the minority thug, but no sympathy AT ALL for the minority VICTIMS?

Jan 19, 2014, 12:35am Permalink

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