On Thursday, Jan. 17, Assemblyman Pete Lopez held a Town Hall meeting at the Saugerties senior citizens center. “My goal tonight is to hear from you. This meeting will last as long as you want; until people start to fall asleep or leave,” he said.
None of the 100 or more people present appeared to be sleepy, as the discussion covered a wide variety of topics, becoming heated at times. The most controversial topic was the state’s recent package of gun control measures, which broaden the definition of what is considered an assault weapon, limit magazine size to seven, require universal background checks and strengthen penalties for using guns in crimes.
Lopez said he didn’t like the rushed process and voted against the legislation, though he added “it’s a complicated issue” that involves balancing the need “to maintain the constitutional freedom on which our country was founded but also to be sure we maintain public safety.”
“The process [in passing this bill] stunk,” said Peter Poccia. “Backroom deals, no public commentary. Has New York State government been totally taken over by the rich and powerful? I hate to sound paranoid, but the process on this bill — no matter where you stand on it — absolutely stinks.”
“The only thing I can tell you is I fully agree,” Lopez said. “For democracy to work you have to have people coming together with the public good in mind, and bring their differences of opinion, and we try to work out something that makes sense for everyone. And that didn’t happen here.”
One citizen asked if the law imposes fees on gun owners. Lopez answered it does not, though it carries a cost of $32 million.
Donna Greco asked if the law could repealed given “all the backroom deals – and there’s no emergency.”
Lopez said the law may be amended as discussion and reaction proceed.
Some of the concerns did not relate to actual parts of the bill. For example, several audience members were concerned about bringing in old antique shotguns and other firearms to be registered with police. The law only requires registering of weapons made illegal by the ban that were previously legal. Owners of non-automatic weapons like hunting rifles, shotguns and pistols will not have to do anything as a result of the law.
The state has set up a phone line for residents with questions about the law: 1-855-LAW-GUNS.
Fracking: ‘If it can’t be done safely, don’t do it’
While Saugerties has few shale deposits of the type that are suitable for the process, “I’m not so concerned about my back yard and my personal water supply, but for the state of New York,” said resident Abbie Duchamp.