A resolution favoring repeal of the state’s gun control SAFE Act was on the verge of being approved by the Town Board last week until board members and the town attorney took a closer look at its language.
The resolution’s up-and-down progress involved jockeying over a document that everyone agreed would have no legislative impact on its presumptive target, Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But with two weeks to go before elections, the resolution prompted accusations of last-minute politicking from board members and the resolution’s Conservative Party sponsors after it was tabled until after the election.
Several years ago the board passed a resolution critical of the SAFE Act, but this one would have gone further.
The four-page resolution, which was modeled after a resolution approved by the County Legislature, appeared at first to urge a modest repeal of “certain provisions” of the act based primarily on the “hasty” way in which it was passed by the state Legislature in the wake of the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn. in 2012.
In the aftermath of that tragedy, it took two days for the Legislature to pass the bill and for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign it into law. Opponents of the law have argued that legislators had only an hour in which to review and pass the act, which they say constituted 20,000 pages.
The Oct. 21 meeting was not the first time the Town Board commented on the SAFE Act. The board first approved a memorializing resolution opposing the act in 2013. But that resolution never reached the governor’s desk, though both houses of the Legislature received copies of it, according to trustee Leeanne Thornton.
So last week, it appeared the stage was set for the board to take a second shot at the act, notwithstanding the fact that the resolution had been proposed by Gaetana Ciarlante, who is running against town supervisor Greg Helsmoortel on the Conservative Party line.
But a few days before board’s scheduled meeting, town attorney John Greco notified the board of “some problems” with the resolution’s language.
Its placement on the board’s agenda for approval was challenged during the public comment period by Patti Kelly, who said she felt town residents were deeply divided about the SAFE Act.
Kelly also noted the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled a few days previously the SAFE Act was constitutional but for its prohibition against magazines on semi-automatic weapons that held more than seven bullets.
Dan Ellsworth, who is running for the board on the Conservative line and said he was speaking on Ciarlante’s behalf, said it was important that the board alert Albany lawmakers that a majority of residents felt the act had constituted a rush to judgment on the issue.
“The county has done it,” he said. “And though it (the resolution) has no power of law, it shows Albany that it has to do things by the system.”
Republican board members urged approval of the resolution, mainly because of problems with the way the state passed the law. While Thornton and Helsmoortel echoed those sentiments, they both said they wanted to review Greco’s concerns about the resolution’s language. The resolution was then tabled by a vote of three to two until the board’s next meeting, which will take place after the election.
After the meeting, Ellsworth dismissed the board’s action, accusing Helsmoortel, Thornton and Fred Costello of a “last-minute political play to move it after the election.”
Helsmoortel said after the meeting that the language of the resolution was “terrible.”
“I couldn’t believe the county passed it.”
Rather than being a call to correct some of the act’s failings, a closer read of the document “was basically a repeal of the whole act,” he said.
Its submission for consideration by Ciarlante was, ultimately, an election year “political ploy.”