Shandaken gets pro gun control petition, but remains staunchly anti

Shandaken town board members, Doris Bartlett, Alfie Higley, Rob Stanley, Jack Jordan and Vin Bernstein. (photo by Violet Snow)

Shandaken town board members, Doris Bartlett, Alfie Higley, Rob Stanley, Jack Jordan and Vin Bernstein. (photo by Violet Snow)

Shandaken residents opposed to the gun control measures of the New York State SAFE Act had their say at the town board meeting on Monday, March 4. Twelve of the over 60 people present spoke in support of the board’s February resolution that registered objection to the new law, while one person presented a petition with 283 signatures, calling for the repeal of the anti-gun-control resolution.

At last month’s meeting, the board voted 3-1 to approve the resolution proposed by council member Vin Bernstein, despite an overwhelming percentage of public comments in opposition to the resolution. As word got out that disappointed Shandaken residents were organizing a petition, gun control opponents circulated emails encouraging attendance at the March meeting, when the ratio of opinions expressed was reversed from the previous public comment period.


Shandakenite Karen Charman read the petition, which stated, in part, “[We] do not feel it is proper for the Shandaken Town Board to use the town as a platform to advance individual views on the highly charged topic of gun control.” As she presented the petition to Bernstein, she pointed out that 80 percent of the 283 signers were residents of Shandaken. The councilman replied that this number comprised about seven percent of the town population of over 3000.

“Over 2500 people in Shandaken didn’t sign this petition,” he stated. “I feel we represented, with that resolution, a majority of the town. In New York State, 34 out of 62 counties have made resolutions to repeal the SAFE Act.”

“How much of that is a coordinated NRA effort?” shot back Charman, prompting Bernstein to insist that the opposition to the SAFE Act is a grass-roots movement that includes a large number of townships in the state approving similar resolutions.

Hank Williams took the microphone next, remarking, “I heard the young lady speak, and she has deep concerns. But I’ve lived here 30 years. We have a lot of veterans here who have been fighting for our rights. For people to say you don’t have a right to put forth a resolution and vote on it — they should be saying that to Albany.”

Glenn Howard, commander of the local American Legion Post, suggested that rather than legislate against guns, “we should keep track of our mentally incapacitated people. Every home should keep track of their children and not let them watch violent videos. I support the grass-roots effort of our board to send a message to Albany.”

Olivebridge resident Herman Rivera alleged that many people who kill with guns are under the influence of legal drugs prescribed by doctors. “Something’s wrong, and it’s not the guns. People have changed. I’m a federal firearms dealer, I sold thousands of guns, and none of my guns ever killed anybody.” He held up the form that people have to fill out to obtain a firearm, offering it to Charman as evidence of the thorough vetting process already in place for gun buyers. Charman accepted it, asking if she could keep it. Rivera said yes.

Other speakers, including town council member Jack Jordan in his prefacing remarks, observed that there are already numerous laws on the books restricting gun ownership and suggested that the SAFE Act was pushed through hastily as a political gesture. Shandaken town justice Tom Crucet was among those who asserted that the law is unconstitutional, not only because he feels it violates the Second Amendment but also because of laws against ex poste facto legislation: “Due process is required before you take something away.”

Former county legislator Fawn Tantillo of New Paltz echoed this objection, stating, “I shoot for fun competitively, and I hunt. I’ve proven I’m a responsible gun owner. I had to defend my children and three of their friends when a state trooper chased a criminal into my house. I shudder to think what would’ve happened if I hadn’t been able to threaten the criminal with my gun and prevent him from taking one of my children. Stop passing laws to make me a criminal, and put real criminals in jail. The SAFE Act doesn’t make us safer.”

Supervisor Rob Stanley cut off the comments as the end of the hour was approaching. He expressed appreciation that, while exercising freedom of speech, “we can sit here and have a civil conversation. Please use restraint when you put out comments publicly. We can agree to disagree and move on.”


Other town news

The Shandaken town board voted 3-2 to join the efforts toward Scenic Byway designation for Route 28, including adoption of the attendant Corridor Management Plan, which restricts off-premise signage along the highway. The approval comes after years of wrangling over whether towns will give up rights to self-management as a result of Scenic Byway designation. Stanley said he was satisfied that the language now included in the plan will forestall that possibility. Bernstein stated that he felt the “home rule” issue was still a potential problem and voted against the resolution, as did Alfie Higley. Stanley, Jack Jordan, and Doris Bartlett cast votes in favor.

The Town Clerk’s Office and Building and Zoning Departments will now accept credit and debit card payments for permits, fees, water bills, licenses, taxes, and other charges pertaining to the town. Payments by credit and debit card will be accepted at the Town Clerk’s window, through the mail, by email, or by telephone. There will be no cost to the town for the service itself, but a small convenience fee (2.45 percent or $3, whichever is less) will be charged to the customer.

Planning consultant David Gilmour, hired under a grant from the Hudson River Valley Greenway, presented a draft of a recreation master plan for the town. Among the plan’s recommendations are rehabilitation of the ballfield at Glenbrook Park and the Pine Hill tennis court; expansion of offerings within playgrounds; development of signage and trails leading to parks and within parks, as well as a rail trail; providing options for skating and sledding; and enhancement of summer and winter rec programs.

While only 1.5 percent of Shandaken’s municipal budget goes to recreation, additional funding sources include donations and impact fees from developers, the DEP Good Neighbor Fund, and grants. Gilmour also pointed out that building restrooms at Big Indian and Phoenicia Parks would eliminate the need for rental of mobile restrooms, saving money in the long term.

The draft of the Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Master Plan can be viewed on the town website,, and comments from the public are invited.

There is one comment

  1. Mike R. S.

    The “SAFE” (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement) Act was debated in closed session without committee hearings, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law within an hour of its passage — after waiving the required three-day public comment period. This 80 page legislation was passed late into the night… literally and figuratively under the cover of darkness. There existed no exigent need as claimed, of the Act’s 60 sections, only three (3) took effect on its adoption into law. Cuomo bragged that New York now has the “toughest assault weapons ban” in the country but claimed that the law respects the Second Amendment and preserves the rights of “hunters and sportsmen.” The former is true; the latter is not.
    The most widely reported provision of the law is the total ban on the sale of military-style rifles classified as “assault weapons,” effective Jan. 15. The provision forever prohibits anyone other than a law enforcement agency from acquiring such weapons, including the popular hunting and target variants of the AR-15 rifle. Current owners of such rifles must register them with the state by 2014, and the registration must be renewed every five years. This gives the state a list of persons from which to confiscate them in the future, and the five-year renewal provision gives the state the opportunity to deny ownership once every five years. Current owners of such rifles may never sell them to another New York State resident in the future or pass them down to members of their family.
    Shockingly enough, in many ways the “assault weapons ban” is actually one of the statute’s lesser infringements on the Second Amendment. The statute criminalizes, potentially criminalizes, or places under state surveillance even the most innocuous, banal, and pedestrian forms of gun ownership, and it restricts the right of self-defense. The new law prohibits the sale of any quantity of ammunition by anyone other than a licensed dealer and requires that such dealer perform a criminal background check on the purchaser and forward the purchaser’s name, address, age, and occupation, and the quantity, caliber, and make of the ammunition, to a State Police database. Thus, the ammunition database creates a de facto universal long gun registry. A hunter who purchases a box of five 12-gauge deer slugs will have the effect of documenting ownership of a 12-gauge shotgun.
    The law affirmatively requires that a person’s firearms must be confiscated if any order of protection is filed against them — no matter how meager the complaint may be. It also requires that a “mental health professional” (including a physician) who believes that an individual is a danger to himself or others must report his or her diagnosis to the police for purposes of firearm confiscation. Such a diagnosis is highly subjective. But the law exempts such “professionals” from civil liability; thus, any “mental health professional can initiate the confiscation of a person’s firearms, and the gun owner is forbidden to file a civil suit to challenge the “diagnosis.”
    The SAFE Act also severely infringes on the right of self-defense from criminal predation. Although Article 35 of New York Penal law allows the use of deadly force in the event of a home invasion, the SAFE Act restricts the ammunition capacity of all arms to seven rounds. If you possess a magazine loaded with more than seven rounds in your own home, you are guilty of a criminal offense. If a criminal with a stolen handgun and an illegal 15-round magazine invades your home and you shoot at him with more than eight rounds (seven plus one in the chamber), you will be criminally charged, and your magazine (and possibly your firearm) will be confiscated and destroyed without compensation, because you have now used it in the commission of a crime. Beyond that, since a handgun permit in New York is not merely a permit to carry, but a permit to possess, after you have been charged with the crime of shooting at the home invader with a high-capacity magazine, your permit will be revoked, and all of your handguns will be confiscated.
    The seven-round magazine limit effectively bans or severely restricts the use of perhaps 75% of the firearms designed in the past 100 years. Seven-round magazines simply do not exist for common firearms such as the 10-shot Ruger 10/22 rifle, five million of which have been manufactured since the 1960s. Although the Act “grandfathers” existing ten-round magazines, it forbids owners to put more than seven rounds in them, and it requires lawful owners of magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds to sell them out of state, surrender them, or destroy them. This is clearly an unconstitutional deprivation of private property, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

    The law also prohibits the private “sale” or “exchange” of any firearm to any person unless a licensed dealer performs the “sale” and a background check. The politically correct law exempts parents, spouses, children, stepchildren and “domestic partners,” but if a serial rapist and murderer is on the loose, you may not give a shotgun to your sister for self-protection. You may not give your brother or nephew a .22 rifle on Christmas Eve. The law does not clarify how long someone must be in possession of a firearm before such possession is understood to be an “exchange”; thus, it is possible that lending a rifle to your brother-in-law for deer season without a dealer transfer and a background check could be construed as an illegal exchange.” You would then be a criminal, and the gun used in the “crime” could be confiscated and destroyed.
    Finally, the SAFE Act requires that gun owners report any “loss or theft” of a firearm or ammunition to the police within 24 hours. Failure to do so is a criminal offense. Read literally, a deer hunter who drops a single 12-gauge slug in the snow and cannot find it is a criminal unless he reports the loss to the police.
    The New York SAFE Act is one of the most brazen assaults on the Constitution and on individual liberty in the history of the United States. Cuomo has thumbed his nose at the Supreme Court’s Heller and McDonald decisions in 2008 and 2010 affirming the right to keep and bear arms. The intent of the law is to suppress and criminalize the common use of firearms, including guns not defined as “assault weapons.” This legislation does not have the support of our law enforcement community, which Cuomo failed to consult or exempt, despite being tasked with its enforcement. In fact, the NY State Sheriffs Association has specifically opposed the act. The New York State Association of County Clerks and the New York State Association of Counties have also passed resolutions opposing the NY SAFE act. More significantly, 50 of New York’s 62 counties have either passed, or are in the process of passing, resolutions calling for the repeal of the SAFE Act, that list continues to grow. New York has the highest taxes in the nation. It is ranked as the least “business-friendly” state in the country. The implementation of this legislation is not only going to cost NY state 36 million dollars a year, it has created a hostile environment for both in-state and out of state sports men and women who now risk committing crimes for the countless technical criminal violations created by the SAFE Act for possessing items which can be purchased over the counter in all our neighboring states.

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