Republicans try again for upstate SAFE Act repeal

Lawmakers Push Safe Act Repeal Outside NYC

ALBANY -- Republicans in the state Legislature renewed their efforts Wednesday to try to repeal parts of the state's 2013 gun-control law, saying upstate and the New York City suburbs should be excluded from the regulations.
 
The bid by GOP members in the Assembly and Senate to overhaul the SAFE ACT was quickly rejected by Democrats who control the Assembly, but the legislation again showed that the controversial law continues to resonate across New York.
 
The bill, which was first introduced last year, would drop most of the provisions of the law outside New York City.
 
"As law-abiding, legitimate, responsible gun owners, they feel that the SAFE Act tramples on their Second Amendment rights and at the same time has failed to make us any safer," said Sen. James Seward, R-Milton, Otsego County, at a Capitol press conference.
 
"I agree."
 
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature in January 2013 passed the SAFE Act after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., a month earlier. Cuomo and Democrats have championed the law as a way to crack down on illegal guns and add new registration requirement for gun owners.
 
In 2015, after some GOP lawmakers ran for office the previous year vowing to make changes to the SAFE Act, the Senate passed a series of reforms. But the Assembly didn't take them up, and Cuomo has shown no willingness to consider major changes.
 
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, is not considering changes to the SAFE Act, spokesman Mike Whyland said Wednesday.
 
"It's not something we would consider," Whyland said. "The SAFE Act has widespread support across the state and in our conference."
 
A Siena College poll in May 2015 found that 62 percent of voters supported the SAFE Act, but that a slim majority upstate were opposed.
 
The bill went nowhere in the Legislature last year, but Republicans said it is important to keep pushing for changes.
 
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, said he has supported changes in the past, but added the GOP conference has yet to discuss the latest bill. Flanagan was among GOP senators in 2013 to vote in favor of the SAFE Act.
 
"We haven’t conferenced that issue in that way. I’m sure that we will," Flanagan told reporters after a separate event Wednesday. "We’ve advocated for amendments to the SAFE Act."
 
The bill would repeal the re-certification requirement for pistol permits, drop a stalled database for background checks on ammunition sales and allow for the transfer of weapons to family members as part of an estate.
 
While the law may be supported in New York City, upstate gun owners do not feel the same way, and laws can be tailored to fit each region, Republican lawmakers argued.
 
Also, 81 percent of the SAFE Act cases were in New York City, records reviewed last year by the USA Today Network's Albany Bureau showed.
 
"We’re going to work very hard to try to convince our colleagues in the state Assembly that this is a worthwhile pursuit," Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County, said.
 
"We have to keep in mind that we have 19 million New Yorkers in this state, and the SAFE Act as it exists today is not serving all of those 19 million residents."
 

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