A petition to make Otsego County a sanctuary from gun laws was withdrawn from consideration last week, after concerns about its intent and language stalled it in committee.
Rep. Rick Brockway, R-Laurens, Otego, presented a petition to create the law to the county’s Board of Representatives in October. The petition had more than 3,200 signatures and came from a group with more than 6,000 members, Brockway said.
At the board’s meeting Wednesday, Jan. 6, however, Brockway said the sponsors of the petition were going to work on it with two other counties to make a revised proposal and wanted to pull the resolution and submit a different one later.
That drew a sharp rebuke from Rep. Andrew Stammel, D-Oneonta, who said Brockway’s language was dangerously imprecise, because only representatives can sponsor or pull a resolution. He said constituents should be encouraged to work with their representatives on matters, but only the elected officials can put a motion before the board.
The petition had been sent to the board’s Public Safety and Legal Affairs Committee in October, but it stalled as members assessed its legal ramifications.
PSLA Committee Chair, Rep. Daniel Wilber, R-Burlington, Edmeston, Exeter, Plainfield, said he had gotten legal opinions from County Attorney Ellen Coccoma and District Attorney John Muehl. He said he would circulate them to the other members.
In December, Coccoma told the committee that the petition was probably too broad, since it seemed to seek sanctuaries from all laws regulating guns, including some criminal statutes. She said the county legislature has no power to decide if state or federal law is constitutional or not and must support the enforcement of the law as written.
In addition, Coccoma said if the petition is a response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE ACT, which was enacted in 2013, the courts have already weighed in on it. New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled a small part of the act unconstitutional, but allowed a broad part of the law to stand. The United States Supreme Court declined to get involved in the case, effectively agreeing the provisions did not violate the Second Amendment, she said.
Otsego County’s representatives passed a resolution stating their opposition to the SAFE ACT not long after it passed.
Many board members, including Wilber, said they worried that the petition asked them to ignore their oaths of office, which in turn could get them in legal trouble.
Brockway said he believed the matter would be brought back to the board and the petition sponsors hoped to create something with language the board did not find so offensive.
Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7218.