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Tough Questions: Head of NY State Police On SAFE Act

7:28 PM, Apr 17, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - For more than a week, Two On Your Side has been seeking clarification from State Police regarding aspects of the NY Safe Act which have now come into affect, and to question the agency regarding the recent case of David Lewis, an Amherst man who mistakenly had his pistol permit revoked and guns confiscated under NY Safe,

State Police have blamed the Erie County Clerk's office for the snafu, but the Clerk blames the New York State Police.

On Monday Afternoon, the Superintendent of the New York State Police, Joseph A. D'Amico, agreed to sit down with us, regarding some of the questions which continue to surface about New York's controversial new gun laws.

On how police will be enforcing the laws

"We're not going to be knocking on people's doors, obviously. It's one of those things like when we tell people don't drink and drive...when we catch you drinking and driving we enforce it."

Regarding a fund set up providing rewards to people who contact police regarding SAFE Act violations

"It's not so much related to the SAFE Act...it's two different issues I think people muddle them together.

Reporter: How are they muddling them together? I mean, you didn't have a reward tip line for rapists or something like that... you've got a reward for somebody who calls you and says, ' my neighbors got this and this, and that'.."

"It's not as connected to the SAFE Act...I think most cities already have a tip line for guns, and the state already runs a tip line for illegal guns, this one doesn't pertain so much to NY Safe."

On whether he would expect a criminal to abide by the law, and only put seven rounds in a 10 round magazine, as it requires.

"It's illegal for a criminal to have a gun. So no, I don't expect them to don't expect they would abide by that law or the other part."

Reporter: So what is the point in that part of the law?

"Probably the intent, when the legislators picked seven as opposed to any other number, was less rounds in the gun if it comes into the hands of the wrong individuals, less opportunity for damage or for harm."

Reporter: But even that presumes that a criminal coming into possession of a weapon, would stop and make sure they only have seven rounds when they go to use it...

"I can't say exactly why the legislature decided on seven rounds or what the exact thinking was."

Reporter: I guess that gets to the point of a lot of people's criticism. They don't think anyone was thinking much about anything. Do you have a thought on that?

"Well you know as a police officer, it's not up to me to interpret those laws to see if I like them or not like them. It's up to me to enforce them and that's what we do.

Reporter : "Were you (as Supt. Of State Police) consulted about this law before it was sent off to lawmakers in, what some might fairly say, was in short order to be passed?

"No, State Police were not consulted about this or any other legislation.

Reporter: Shouldn't you have been consulted about this? After all, you're the guys with the badges and the guns...

"We offered technical advice when the research was being done but as far as what was passed or how it was passed we don't have a role in that. We're on the receiving end, we enforce the laws, we don't write the laws I haven't been a part of any legislation that's been done of the two years that I've been Superintendent.

Whether Troopers Are Conflicted In Enforcing The Law:

Reporter: As there is confusion among the public, are your Troopers confused as well?

"It is a little confusing ...it's a brand new law. But we continue to offer training to our officers as well as other police agencies."

Reporter: Each of your Troopers, as well you sir, took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York. So amid any confusion, would expect your charges to enforce what the law says, or the Constitution, if they believe aspects of the law violate the constitution, which they took an oath to uphold?

"I don't think it's the role of any police officer or police agency to interpret the law as it relates to the constitution. That falls under the court to determine if it meets that criteria. We have New York State laws we live under and we enforce. New York State Troopers are professionals, as are most law enforcement I've met. I would expect that everyone will enforce the law impartially and fairly when they need to do so."

Reporter: There are member of the rank and file who will privately say they think this is a bogus law.

"I haven't heard that from the union or the rank and file. There may be members that feel one way or another on this, as they might on any topic,  but I don't expect that to cloud a State Trooper's mind when he or she is called upon to take action."

Regarding a mix up which resulted in David Lewis, an Amherst resident and legal firearms owner, having his permit revoked and his guns confiscated, which the Erie County Clerk's Office has blamed on the state, and which State Police say was the fault of the Clerk's office.

"In the case of Mr. Lewis, a name came up, as a David Lewis, with an age range, not a date of birth, which went through the Department of Criminal Justice Services. They sent it to us, we looked through the system, and found two permitted names in the same age range as a David Lewis who was the subject of a 9.46 (mental health alert report). We sent notification to Erie County and to another county. It seemed that in Erie County they did not do due diligence to figure out if this was actually their permittee They forwarded it on to a judge to who, based on that ,apparently revoked or suspended Mr. Lewis's permit.

Reporter: The clerk has stated that it is not their within their purview, as the purveyors of passport applications and fishing licenses and the like, to be doing that due diligence. Isn't that the role of your agency, or shouldn't it be?

"If they're issuing the permits in the first place, and they can do due diligence the first time, they can do it (subsequently)... there is perhaps a role for law enforcement with this, but perhaps on the local level (where it is initially done before someone is issued a permit)"

Reporter: What is the status then, of the other David Lewis? Did he end up having his permit revoked, where are his guns, and did he end up being the guy you were concerned about?

"No in the case of the other David Lewis it was a similar situation as in Erie County. In that case, the other county took action initial to suspend the permit, but the permit owner stepped forward to tell them they had the wrong person. We worked with them to determine that the David Lewis in question was also not the subject of a 9.46...but it appears that county made some of the same errors as were made in Erie County."

Reporter: All right, so it appears that there was no David Lewis here or anywhere else to worry about in the first place? Mr. Superintendent, can you see where this would alarm people...people who might be concerned that they might be next?

"After the Erie County issue with Mr. Lewis, we're working to get better information right from the start, and right to the end of the process so that these things don't happen again."

Lewis' attorney now claims his client's medical records were examined without a valid search warrant, in violation of federal and state privacy laws in addition to the New York State Criminal Procedure Law.

The attorney also claims to have informants from within the New York State government regarding the creation a clandestine 'HIPAA' unit comprised of approximately seven members within the Division for Criminal Justice Services , charged with examining New York residents' medical records without warrant.

Reporter: Is there such a unit, or are there plans to have such a unit to pry into our medical records without a warrant?

"This information is blatantly untrue ...I don't know where Mr. Lewis' attorney is getting this type of information."

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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