St. Lawrence County legislators pass resolution opposing new state gun laws
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
CANTON — St. Lawrence County legislators passed a resolution in opposition to a spate of new gun laws at this week's Services Committee meeting.
The ten laws in question, which were signed into law on June 6 by Governor Hochul, are some of the strictest since the SAFE Act was enacted in 2013, officials say.Legislator Kevin Acres opened the comments by slamming state officials for passing the laws so quickly after deadly shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas which left a total of 31 people dead.
“It’s another emotion filled legislation, this time it wasn’t passed at midnight but it was in the broad daylight. This is an overwhelming and unhinged reaction to the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, which these laws are only a burden on those who obtain guns legally and are responsible gun owners,” Acres said.
Acres went on further, stating the Second Amendment and subsequent supporting court cases like the District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago maintain that an individual has the right to keep and bear arms.
Acres highlighted concerns with many of the laws, including what he viewed as a lack of due process with Red Flag Laws and clear intent to over-regulate gun dealers into closing their businesses.
“This will wipe out many gun dealers and maybe that’s the motivation,” he said.
Acres continued on, saying studies he found show that children in fatherless homes are at an elevated risk of developing behavioral, social and mental health issues that potentially lead to violence.
“A Gallup poll showed that 90% of homeless people come from fatherless homes. A total of 80% of adolescents with behavioral issues come from fatherless homes. A total of 75% of adolescent substance abuse cases come from homes without a father present,” Acres said.
Legislator Larry Denesha offered support for the resolution as well, saying the new laws are a mixed bag with a “couple of things actually making some sense.”
“There are people who should not have access to firearms. But I believe most of the laws are not practical and some border on nonsensical,” he said.
Denesha also criticized officials in Albany, saying that he believed they are more interested in creating the appearance they are addressing gun violence than actually doing something to fix it.
“All laws and legislation in the world aren’t going to modify the behavior of people committing violence until there are clear and deliverable consequences for their actions,” Denesha said.
Chairman Joseph Lightfoot spoke in support of the bill as well, saying it was a simple choice for him.
“The reason I’m going to vote for this resolution is, it’s simple, the law says that the right (to keep and bear arms) shall not be infringed,” he said.
“These laws here that we are now looking at in this resolution, all these numbers, I would be interested to know if this is a bipartisan group that passed them,” Lightfoot continued.
Also speaking in support of the resolution was Legislator Rick Perkins, who cited Chicago as a failure of gun control efforts.
“Look at Chicago, they have some of the toughest gun laws and they don’t work,” Perkins said.
Perkins went on further, saying criminals will always be criminals and will never obey any laws passed. He also went further, saying that it ultimately comes down to individual choice to commit violence.
“It’s not the gun that kills, it’s the person. If you want to say it’s the gun, then when someone dies from being hit by a car because someone is texting or drinking or on their phone, take the cars away too. If we’re going to do it, do it correctly,” he said.
“As a society we lost our moral values, we need to come back to that. It’s a people problem, not a gun problem,” Perkins concluded.
Legislator Rita Curran took a different approach to the bills, saying they do nothing to get to what she believes to be the root cause of gun violence.
“I would like to see them spend more money trying to help people who are mentally ill,” she said.
Curran cited a number of studies, saying many violent offenders start with smaller crimes and gradually elevate the manner and type of criminality over the course of years.
“We’ve stopped holding people accountable for the other things that they do. There are other things that could have been done along the way to stop many of these shootings,” Curran said.
Legislator Nicole Terminelli echoed the sentiment, but had reservations about passing the resolution as it stood.
“If we can uncouple some of the Second Amendment laws from the social media ones I could support the resolution,” she said.
Terminelli went into further detail, saying there were warning signs on social media from both shooters in question.
“These people want to be celebrated and sensationalized,” she said. “I know we have freedom of speech but I shouldn’t be able to go on social media and threaten to walk into an elementary school or some other place and harm people and not have to suffer any consequences at all. There has to be limitations for public safety when it comes to things like this,” she continued.
Terminelli went on further, saying “Mental health is where we really need to put our efforts.”
According to Legislator John Burke, who supported the resolution, county officials should also offer solutions to state officials to enact meaningful change.
“Maybe we should give them some ideas of what meaningful reform would look like. Kevin said it’s fatherless homes, Rita said it’s mental health and maybe it’s a combination of both. As we send this down to Albany, maybe it would be a good idea to give them an idea of what meaningful reform would be,” Burke said.
Legislator Bill Sheridan, speaking in support of the resolution, said it was the majority being punished for the actions of a few.
“Clearly there was an indication of some trouble with both shooters. When you turn 18, records are not made available from juvenile incidents. I think legally that needs to be addressed, it doesn’t just go away from 16 to 18,” Sheridan said.
“There is nothing in any of these laws that will deter mass shootings,” Chairman Lightfoot said. “9.9 out of 10 times they have social problems, they have mental health problems and add to that where we have gone with laws, where there’s no bail, it’s a joke to some of these people,” Lightfoot said, calling into question recent bail reform legislation enacted in New York.
“No wonder why we can’t prevent it, there’s no easy answer. But people in Albany and Washington are just looking for easy answers,” Lightfoot concluded.
The resolution passed 12-2-1, with Terminelli and Legislator Margaret Haggard voting no. Legislator David Forsythe was absent.