Sheriff Timothy B. Howard’s dislike of the state’s new gun-control law is turning into a more personal tussle with a local assemblyman, after Howard said publicly he would not enforce the law.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, responded to Howard on Friday in a letter asking whether Howard’s refusal extended to a provision of the SAFE Act aimed at protecting potential victims of domestic violence.
Ryan points out in his letter that, when a person who holds a state pistol permit is under an order of protection after making a threat with a firearm, the law requires that the permit be suspended or revoked and that the pistols be confiscated. It would be up to the Sheriff’s Office to make sure the weapons are removed, Ryan contends.
“Why do you feel you do not need to protect domestic violence victims?” Ryan wrote.
Reached Friday, Howard said that he had not yet received Ryan’s letter.
However, in response to Ryan’s question, he said, “We are extremely proactive in assisting all victims of domestic violence.”
He also maintains laws already were in place prior to the SAFE Act that provided for guns to be removed in domestic violence situations.
“I couldn’t disobey a court order,” he added. “We would have to look at the order. We teach officers to use common sense in their duties, and if there is a question, to seek guidance.”
Ryan argues that, though the courts had discretion regarding the weapons previously, the change was significant in cases where women had already been threatened with a firearm.
“This is a hallmark of the SAFE Act – protecting victims of domestic violence,” Ryan said Friday.
“It is dealing with people who have committed violence and are in our courts. This is a protection for women who are victims of domestic violence – that they won’t be at risk of violence from a gun.”
He reiterated his complaint against Howard:
“It’s very troubling to hear the county’s top public safety officer say he is going to ignore the law.”
Howard took issue with a comment made by Ryan on Thursday, that the sheriff should “join the legislative branch” if he didn’t like the laws that were being passed.
“What they’re saying is, ‘You elected me, now shut up and take it,’ ” Howard said. “What happened to ‘we the people?’ They may have put one or two good things in the law – why not just pass those? I’m saying there are more abuses under this law than there are good things.”
As for following a court order to remove a weapon when threats had been made, he said, “That’s another issue entirely.”
“We support responsible gun ownership – and removing guns from irresponsible people.”
Howard is one of four sheriffs who have filed a friend of the court brief in a federal lawsuit by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and others seeking to overturn the SAFE Act, saying it violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution.