LOCKPORT, NY - The pistol permit office at the Niagara County Clerk's office was closed as usual on a Wednesday to give staffers time to catch up on paperwork and computer files for residents applying for or making changes on those documents to own a handgun in New York state.
But there's a lingering issue. There is a mandate under the New York SAFE Act that pistol permit holders who got those permits before 2013 must re-certify either online or with paper forms through the state police.
That has Niagara County Clerk Joe Jastrzemski worried.
"We have over 33,000 pistol permit holders in Niagara County as we speak...and there are a number of them that are pre-2013, so naturally we're concerned," he said.
That concern stems from what he and other county clerks feel is a lack of proper notification and publicity about the recertification requirement that has a deadline several months from now of January 31, 2018.
"Still today there are pistol permit holders pre-2013 who have not received a letter and that are not aware that they should re-certify," he said.
Spokesman Beau Duffy of the New York State Police Public Affairs Office in Albany says a press release was sent out in January saying the recertification website was then active with a posted link of http://troopers.ny.gov/firearms for on-line recertification.
Permit holders would have the option of downloading forms from that site or picking them up in person at a state police station. But we are not aware of any significant publicity campaign for this effort.
A former Erie County clerk turned state lawmaker also questions the notification.
State Senator Chris Jacobs, who is a Republican in Erie County, says: "1.2 million current legal pistol permit holders who had a pistol before the SAFE ACT was passed...now this five years coming due...they're all trying to do them at once. Another reason that it was a poorly thought out piece of legislation."
Whatever the case, Jastrzemski has other concerns if someone misses that deadline as he still seeks guidance from the state police on questions such as: "Who's gonna revoke it? How it is revoked? How are the people gonna be notified? Are they gonna have due process?"
We did get a response from Duffy on some of those questions.
His statement: "Local licensing officials are responsible for taking actions on licenses they issue, including revocation, and under state law, these officials have the ability to revoke a license if it is not re-certified by the applicable deadline. Courts may also issue orders directing law enforcement agencies to take possession of illegally possessed firearms in appropriate cases. Permit holders who have questions on the recertification process can call our toll free hotline at 1-855-LAW-GUNS."