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NY sheriffs: We won’t enforce gun laws, magazine limits

The law bans sales of some popular semi-automatic rifles and gives owners a year to register those they already owned

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

NEW YORK — Don’t expect any change in local enforcement of New York’s SAFE Act following recent comments by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. That was the response from two local sheriff’s departments and a state legislator Friday when asked to comment on what Cuomo had to say.

Cuomo’s office drafted and pushed through the gun law in January, which, among other provisions, bans New York sales of some popular semi-automatic rifles and gives owners a year to register those they already owned. It also limited magazine capacity in most cases to seven bullets.

Talking to reporters Wednesday, Cuomo said law enforcement’s job is to enforce all the laws, which are enacted by the Legislature. To do otherwise “would obviously be chaos” and “a dangerous and frightening precedent.”

The New York State Sheriffs Association and five individual sheriffs have joined a court effort to block enforcement of new bullet limits for magazines and firearms restrictions.

Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond said he has no intention of enforcing the law, and that his office won’t do anything that would cause law-abiding citizens to turn in their weapons or arrest them for possessing firearms.

“I’m not going back on my personal conviction,” he said. Residents have told him this is what they want, he said, and “I’ve stood up for them, and I will continue to do so.”

Gun owners in his county have a tradition of being hunters and outdoorsmen possessing all types of weapons, Desmond said.

“They generally treat them safely,” he said. “If the governor thinks I am wrong, so be it.”

He was more concerned about doing what was right for the citizens of his county, he said. If there is a problem with guns, it is more in the urban areas -- that is where the focus should be.

The only action Cuomo can take is to campaign against him, Desmond said. He is running for re-election in November.

Assemblyman Clifford Crouch, R-Guilford, said that Cuomo has no say in the actions of the sheriffs’ departments because they are elected by the people of each county. The law was “a knee-jerk reaction to the problem of gun violence that gave the public a false sense of security,” he said.

Some of the problems stem from the fact it was passed without any input from the law-enforcement officials who are responsible with enforcing it, Crouch said. Now, sheriffs and others are “stuck with imposing something on citizens that doesn’t address the problem.”

Instead, “it could catch citizens that may have unintentionally violated the laws. The criminals aren’t going to care about that.”

Delaware County Undersheriff Craig DuMond said he and Sheriff Tom Mills support the New York State Sheriff’s Association opinion on the law. Some aspects are beneficial, such as restricting Freedom of Information requests for pistol permit holders, enhancing penalties for the killing of first responders and a review of mental-health records before permits are granted. But he doesn’t support the assault-weapons ban.

“It is too broad and prevents the possession of many weapons that can be used legally,” he said. He is also against reducing the size of the magazine from 10 bullets.

Mills will continue to enforce the laws as required by the Constitution, DuMond said. However, nobody has been arrested under the law’s provisions.

“The issue is we believe it is unconstitutional,” DuMond said. It is being enforced “with a degree of common sense and judgement.”

The Founding Fathers were “brilliant” in making the sheriffs answerable to the people and not the government, DuMond said. “They are the people’s last line of defense.”

Copyright 2013 The Daily Star