Woodstock law requiring all firearms to be locked away and secured draws standing-room-only crowd

Jay Wenk

A proposed firearm storage law drew a standing-room-only crowd of mostly gun owners to the Woodstock Town Board meeting March 21 as council members attempt to balance safety with the right to self defense. The law, as proposed by Councilman Jay Wenk, would require firearms to be secured in a cabinet or with a trigger lock when not in the owner’s immediate possession.

“All firearms in the town of Woodstock, whether handguns or long rifles and shotguns and all air guns will be secured, unloaded in locked cabinets and/or protected with trigger locks whenever the firearm or air gun is out of the owner’s or custodian’s immediate possession or control,” the resolution states. Violating the law would be punishable by a $500 fine, 120 days in jail or both.

Supervisor Bill McKenna has voiced his concerns about a law that he characterized as punitive in nature and suggested efforts are better directed toward safety education. He suggested Wenk reach out to the area gun clubs, which denied that there was any such contact.

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“I am a board member of the High Woods Gun Club,” said Ed Altenau. “It was never discussed at the board meeting so I’d like to know who they talked to.”

Wittenberg Sportsmen’s Club Vice President Bob Bloomer said nobody contacted the organization except McKenna, who said Wenk would be calling. “Our gun club went as far as even offering free gun safety classes to the town…perhaps at the community center or our club. Nobody ever contacted any of the officers or any members,” said Bloomer.

Wenk said he called everyone on a list given to him by McKenna “at least twice,” to which Bloomer responded “I’m giving you my word. You didn’t call, bottom line.”

Added Bloomer, “This town needs to address the real problem. And the real problem is the drugs that are coming into this town. That’s where your problem begins,” he added.

Police Chief Clayton Keefe said the last theft of guns in the town was in 2010 when 12 long guns were taken from a locked cabinet in a Wittenberg home. Because the owner had the serial numbers registered, they were recovered by Kingston police within three days, Keefe said.

Former Ulster County Undersheriff Frank Faluotico tried to drive the point home that Wenk’s legislation is unnecessary from a gun owner’s and law enforcement perspective. “There’s not a person in this room, Jay, that disagrees with gun safety. We are all on the same page with that,” he said. “We’re not here to attack you. We’re here to tell you the faults of your actions.”

Faluotico said “immediate possession” is contained within one’s residence or vehicle, so Wenk’s proposal is “already defeated” by the definition of immediate possession. “There are too many laws already on the books that have been created by town boards like this, county legislatures like ours, state assemblies and state senates like ours, that, one, have no money in them for education, which yours does not; have no money in it for enforcement, which yours does not; have no money for community outreach, which yours does not,” said Faluotico. “If somebody wants to commit suicide, if they can’t get a gun, then you’re going to have to go to the Rhinecliff Bridge and start a law there.”

Faluotico said he is willing to work with Wenk on gun safety, “but what it’s going to take you to do is to pull this law off the table, forget the nonsense that’s going on here tonight, allow everybody to go home, and we’ll work on something to educate the public together.”

 

A political decision? 

But Alexandra Dubruff, volunteer for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, said Wenk’s proposal is straightforward and not unprecedented. “It’s basically if you don’t have the gun on your person or within your immediate control, you lock it up. It’s really simple,” she said. “Just as we take safety precautions with swimming pools, medicine bottles and seat belts in cars, we must have precautions around firearms in our home for the safety of our loved ones, especially our kids.”

She said safer storage of guns can prevent suicides, many of which are committed with a firearm.

“Suicide is an impulsive act, and in many instances, suicidal feelings will pass if a suicide attempt is unsuccessful,” Dubruff said.

Some in the crowd shouted mental health is a separate issue, prompting McKenna to implore the audience to let Dubruff finish.

At times emotionally overwhelmed, Dubruff told the board Woodstock would join Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, Westchester County, NYC, Saratoga Springs, Albany, and Beacon in enacting safe firearm storage legislation. “This resolution would complement the New York SAFE Act because you are only required to store your firearm safely if you are living with a felon or someone who has been adjudicated as mentally ill” under the current law, she said.

Attorney Stuart Lipkind believes the town is on solid legal footing in adopting such a law, despite opinions that it is overreaching or even made redundant by existing law.

“Under municipal home rule, this town does have the authority,” he said, under the principle of protecting the health, safety and welfare of its residents. “Whether they (the Town Board) vote to do so is really a political decision.” Lipkind noted language was added to the SAFE Act to ensure safe storage legislation adopted by municipalities could not be pre-empted.

McKenna countered that the Association of Towns believes such laws are beyond the scope of a town board and concedes there are differences in opinion. “If attorneys all agreed, we wouldn’t have courts,” McKenna said.

The sportsmen’s club representatives said nobody is more conscientious about gun safety than registered owners, a point Lipkind acknowledged but added there’s room for improvement. “Not every gun owner is as diligent about gun safety as everybody in this room. If they were, we wouldn’t have these incidents with children.”

Councilman Richard Heppner said the board needs to build consensus before moving forward with any legislation. If the board decides on a law at all, it needs to be reviewed by an attorney. But, there are better ways to direct those resources, he noted. “Talk about money for a lawyer… I’d rather see money spent for education,’ Heppner said.

 

Gun safety task force

McKenna said a task force will be comprised of Wenk, Keefe and gun club representatives. It will further explore Wenk’s resolution, but it’s first goal will be to schedule gun safety classes within the next six to eight weeks.

Keefe thanked Wenk for bringing the issue to light and fostering discussion and said gun owners need to be responsible. “You may find a gun in my house,” said Keefe. “You’re not going to find the bullets.”

Keefe said his biggest fear is handguns. People take them out of their home and even though they’re not supposed to, they leave them unsecured in their car when they go into a store.

Still, the chief believes in a person’s right to self defense.

“If somebody lives on a dead-end road 10 minutes outside the village, there’s always a delayed response,” Keefe said. “I don’t want to be the one to tell somebody that their gun needs to be locked up.”

There are 15 comments

  1. Rich....

    this also applies to local governments

    The right of a citizen to bear arms, in lawful defense of himself or the State, is absolute. He does not derive it from the State government. It is one of the high powers” delegated directly to the citizen, and `is excepted out of the general powers of government.’ A law cannot be passed to infringe upon or impair it, because it is above the law, and independent of the lawmaking power.” [Cockrum v. State, 24 Tex. 394, at 401-402 (1859)]

  2. Scott Wilson

    Did some incident happen that motivated these folk to try to make people lock up their guns in town?

    Regardless, the US Supreme Court already addressed this issue. It’s not constitutional per the 2008 Heller decision. So it’s going to cost Woodstock a lot of money for civil rights violations if the “law” passes and is used to violate the civil rights of an American citizen.

    You know it’s wrongheaded when your own police chief doesn’t support it.

  3. Laughing Bear

    Typical liberal rag, deleting comments that disagree with your arrogant communistic designs.

    To HELL with you pathetic losers. This site just got blacklisted and now literally no longer exists at our server.

  4. Barry Hirsh

    “She said safer storage of guns can prevent suicides, many of which are committed with a firearm.”

    Bogus. If I keep my guns locked up and decide to commit suicide, I merely go to the cabinet, unlock it and take one out.

    This is a nonsensical argument.

    1. Steve

      Horry Cty, SC? True it’s always sad but Woodstock is involved how??? A 14 yo child was raped by two illegal immigrants in Maryland within the past week, are you addressing any illegals residing in the town if Woodstock? That’s a existing issue that you choose to ignore because it doesn’t fit your political agenda I assume. You care not about gun safety, its rhetoric of your political party which you choose to chase.

  5. Tom Gresham

    The latest information from the National Safety Council shows that accidental shooting deaths, and accidental gunshot deaths of children, are at an all-time low. The number — not the rate — is the lowest it has been in 70+ years, and this is with a huge increase in population, a huge increase in the number of guns and gun owners, and with 20 million people carrying loaded and licensed handguns.

    Accidental gunshot deaths are at the lowest point in three generations. Education — not criminal penalties.

    http://www.nssfblog.com/unintentional-firearms-fatalities-fall-17-percent/

    1. kojak1

      But children are still dying. That is why we need a law plus education. Because not everyone learns or follows through. Above case in Stratford NJ is one example. A trained patrolman, according to news reports, did not safely store his gun and his 8 year old girl is dead. No, education is not enough. A good idea yes. But not enough. Not while children are still dying. Won’t you give an inch to save a child?

      Safe storage law will not take your gun away and will not affect you if you are already following this recommended practice. But it will be a reason for everyone else to think twice before leaving their unattended gun unlocked or not safely stored.

      http://www.projectchildsafe.org/parents-and-gun-owners

  6. Frabus

    ‘ . . . suicidal feelings will pass if a suicide attempt is unsuccessful,” Dubruff said.’

    So gun owners should have to lock up their firearms so that they have no access to them, that way they can’t shoot themselves? The real mental illness is on the part of the suicidal nihilists who are prosposing this disarmament nonsense.

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