The Shandaken town board voted 3-1 to approve a resolution opposing the SAFE Act gun control measures recently passed by the New York State legislature, on the grounds that the regulations violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The resolution was proposed by council member Vin Bernstein, who presided over the February 4 town board meeting in the absence of supervisor Rob Stanley, who was ill.
A statement from Stanley was read aloud, urging the board to table the resolution, which Stanley considered divisive and outside the board’s duties to the town. “This issue is better debated by higher officials,” his email asserted. Doris Bartlett cast the dissenting vote, while Bernstein, Alfie Higley, and Jack Jordan voted in favor.
The resolution specifies, “the Town Board of the Town of Shandaken does hereby oppose the enactment of any legislation that would infringe upon the Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms and consider such laws to be unnecessary and beyond lawful legislative authority granted to our State representatives,” and directs that copies of the resolution will be sent to President Obama and state and local officials.
Over 20 public statements were presented at the meeting, either in person or in the form of emails sent to board members and read aloud. The majority of comments opposed the resolution, with only three opinions expressed in favor of its passage. However, among the 50 or so members of the public present, it appeared from the pattern of applause following statements that approximately half of the audience supported the resolution.
Tony Fletcher, vice president of the Onteora school board, noted that in 2008, the Supreme Court upheld the Second Amendment but stated that the right to possess firearms is “not unlimited.” He added, “The option to do nothing about guns will not protect our children.”
Many speakers expressed support for hunters but agreed with the comment by Robert Burke Warren that “assault rifles have no place in anyone’s home.”
Tom Fraser, owner of the Phoenicia Belle bed-and-breakfast, disagreed with the resolution’s assertions that people of Shandaken “derive economic benefit from all safe forms of firearms recreation, hunting, and shooting conducted within Shandaken.” Fraser said, “That probably refers to the hunting season, which is a small part of the year. Guests come to this area because there are no guns.” He felt the resolution would project an image unfavorable to tourism.
In response, Bernstein pointed out that the Phoenicia Fish and Game Club has over 600 members, while the Upper Esopus Fish and Game Association has another 100 or so. “Members come up all times of the year, including summer,” said Bernstein, in order to shoot on club-owned properties.
Several speakers referred to a clause in the resolution stating that “there is no documented correlation between gun control measures and crime reduction” as “debatable.” Peekamoose Restaurant owner Mary Beth Mills quoted statistics from the Centers for Disease Control showing that the top ten states with the lowest death rates also have the most restrictions on possession of guns. She added, “I read Governor Cuomo’s 78-page legislation, and I didn’t see anything that would suggest a ban of firearms necessary for recreation or home protection.”
An opposing view came from Matthew Persons, former owner of a Pine Hill gun shop, who remarked, “I think it’s a fine resolution. I have no problem with background checks, or limiting semiautomatic assault weapons. I have a problem with the government restricting the amount of bullets to seven. What are they going to do with the weapons already out there?” He was referring to the new measure that restricts New York State residents to purchasing ammunition magazines that carry seven bullets, rather than 10.