Gun-rights advocates rally outside the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y., on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. / Joseph Spector, Gannett Albany, N.Y., Bureau
ALBANY, N.Y. -- More than two-dozen New York counties and local governments have passed resolutions in opposition to the state's new gun-control law.
The resolutions have come largely from rural upstate communities and range from calling the law unconstitutional, to wanting a full repeal, to raising concerns about unfunded mandates that the law may produce.
The mainly Republican leaders said they are responding to the concerns of residents. On Tuesday night, about 1,000 residents attended an Ulster County (N.Y.) Legislature meeting as lawmakers adopted a resolution opposed to the gun law signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 15.
"This gun law was poorly drafted, it was poorly passed. It really does need a lot of fixes," said Ulster County Legislature Chairwoman Terry Bernardo.
While the resolutions are ceremonial, local leaders said they want the message to get across to state officials that people are unhappy with the law.
"We hope it has influence," said Wayne Speenburgh, chairman of the Greene County (N.Y.) Legislature, which is expected to vote on its resolution Wednesday night. "Since I've been a legislator, and I'm in my 10th year, I've probably never seen the constituents on any subject more outraged than over this law."
Lawmakers and Cuomo are expected to consider amendments to the law, particularly making it clear that police officers are exempt from an assault-weapons ban.
Cuomo, a Democrat, has defended the law, which is the toughest and first in the nation since the Newtown, Conn., school shootings in December. It expands the state's assault-weapons ban, requires guns to be registered every five years and limits the number of bullets in a magazine to seven.
A Siena College poll Feb. 4 showed voters supported the gun law 65 percent to 30 percent.
"Gun safety is a politically charged issue and a lot of people have very strong feelings about guns. I understand it. I respect it," Cuomo said last week in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "I also understand that there has been a chronic problem of gun violence in this state and in this nation. Too many innocent people have lost their lives."
The third rally to oppose the law is planned for Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Capitol. Organizers said they are bringing busloads of gun-rights supporters for the event.
Local leaders said the push for resolutions in opposition to the gun law hasn't come from one particular group. And while some counties have consulted with one another about how to craft the resolutions, there isn't one specific template that they are all using -- though many are similar.
"It's got grassroots. There's no overarching group pushing this," said Evan Hempel, a town council member in Clermont, Columbia County, N.Y., who is keeping track of the resolutions on a website, www.nysaferesolutions.com.
Most of the resolutions knock the hasty passage of the law. Cuomo bypassed a three-day waiting period for the bill to be adopted, using what's known as a message of necessity. Lawmakers approved it within hours of the bill being printed.
The resolutions in Ulster and Wyoming counties run four to five pages and both say, "This legislation effectively turns countless New York State law-abiding gun owners into criminals."
Livingston County administrator Ian Coyle said county officials are concerned about the added local cost to enforce the law. The state has indicated that it will pay expenses for the program through State Police, but local leaders are skeptical.
"It's a little bit of a joke at this point because the county clerk offices are getting bombarded," Coyle said of the state's claim. "Our phones are ringing off the hook, people are streaming in through the door for these various pistol permit provisions."
Rockland County passed a resolution Tuesday in opposition to the law, and Tioga County recently passed one. Monroe and Dutchess counties said they are considering resolutions.
"It's important to so many people that we need to discuss it," said Robert Rolison, the Dutchess County Legislature chairman.
Some counties have issued support for tougher gun laws. In Westchester County, the Democratic-led Legislature passed a resolution this month that backs tougher federal laws, similar to what was passed in New York.
On Wednesday, County Executive Robert Astorino, a Republican, announced a program, Safer Communities, to combat gun violence.
Spector writes for the Gannett Albany (N.Y.) Bureau
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