By Gerald Cumbo
I applaud Sheriff Timothy Howard’s position that he will not actively enforce most of the misguided provisions of the so-called NY SAFE Act. Howard, like all of us, was appalled by the murder of innocent schoolchildren in Connecticut and also the killing and injuring of first responders in Webster.
He surely understands that the former was the result of a mentally ill young man acting out in a horribly violent fashion. The common thread is mental illness. The Webster shooting of first responders was used as another reason to pass a bad law in the middle of the night without public comment or giving legislators time to read the bill.
New York freed a homicidal maniac, who had bludgeoned his 92-year-old grandmother to death with a hammer, after 17 years in prison. William Spengler admitted in a parole hearing that he was unsure if he would kill again. That the governor used this tragedy as an excuse to push through his bill in record time is the height of hypocrisy.
Why the rush? The governor wanted to be the first kid on the block with a shiny new gun control law, beat the president to the punch and advance his own presidential aspirations.
Howard understands that neither of these tragedies would have been averted had the SAFE Act been passed in previous years. The Newtown, Conn., shooter used his mother’s legally owned guns and Spengler obtained his by means of an illegal straw purchase. In both instances, multiple laws were broken, but the state thought that one more gun law would keep us all safe. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The governor claimed he needed a “message of necessity” to bypass the normal three-day period to let legislators and citizens examine a bill. He ignored the fact that in 2011, the last year for complete FBI statistics, there were only five murders in the state with any type of rifle, let alone scary looking black rifles, which are labeled “assault weapons.” Hands and feet killed more than five times as many people as rifles in that same year. (www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-20)
Fifty-two counties, 185 municipalities and 18 law enforcement groups including the New York State Sheriffs Association have passed resolutions condemning the SAFE Act. This is an unprecedented push-back to a clearly unconstitutional law. The U.S. Supreme Court in the Heller case has held that firearms in common use are protected under the Constitution and modern sporting rifles are the most popular category of firearms sold today.
President Obama has instructed federal employees not to enforce laws enacted by Congress, including the Defense of Marriage Act and immigration laws. I have yet to see The Buffalo News object to his picking and choosing which laws to enforce.
Gerald Cumbo is state vice president of SCOPE.