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North country lawmakers: state gun control measures passed too quickly


North country lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle agree gun control measures passed the state Legislature too quickly.

Chapter amendments already are being discussed to shore up holes or ambiguous sections in the law that was signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday.

“I feel like there are details that could have been fleshed out a little better,” said Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa. “The need to have an amendment is pretty well universally accepted at this point.”

But she said she feels the speed at which the New York Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act moved through the Legislature was born out of urgency. Mrs. Russell voted in favor of the law.

“The governor sent a message of necessity, so it really required our quick action on the bill,” she said.

Assemblyman Kenneth J. Blankenbush, R-Black River, however, said he thinks the way NYSAFE was passed is indicative of a state political culture that isn’t thorough enough. He voted against it.

“Why fast-track a bill that really has some mistakes in it?” Mr. Blankenbush said. “We could correct things through chapter amendments, but when you’re debating the bill and the bill is this new, if you know it’s flawed, we should go back and take time to do it the right way.”

In the upper chamber, state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, agreed that the bill should have had more time between its introduction and its passage.

“This legislation is very complex,” Mrs. Ritchie said.

She voted against it.

“I think something this significant should have been allowed the opportunity to age,” said state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome. “This was a very technical document.”

Mr. Griffo, who also voted against the legislation, said, “I don’t think we are going to be less safe, but I also don’t think we are going to be more safe.”

A ban on magazines with more than seven rounds and increased penalties for people carrying guns on school grounds are among its provisions.

“Most police officers are carrying more than seven bullets,” Mr. Blankenbush said. “When we asked that question on the floor, obviously (the bill sponsor, Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, D-Brooklyn) said, ‘That’s not what we meant.’”

Mrs. Russell said she believes the current exemptions for law enforcement agents that allow them to keep more rounds in their magazines and carry firearms on school grounds are still applicable.

“It never hurts to say it again,” Mrs. Russell said.

The law also is unclear on whether all pre-1994 magazines that carry more than 10 rounds are banned or whether people can modify their magazines so they accept only seven rounds.

“There is some argument to be made that you might be able to alter the device so it can’t hold any more,” Mrs. Russell said.

“That’s something we need to look into,” Mr. Griffo said.

Despite disappointment with the process and the questions surrounding certain aspects of the law, lawmakers agree that the law will not destroy the north country’s hunting and gun culture.

“I don’t think it’s going to kill the upstate hunting culture at all,” Mr. Blankenbush said. “What I’m fearful of is that there will be some law-abiding citizens who will say, ‘I’m not registering these guns at all.’”

The law also requires owners of assault weapons to register them within one year or face felony charges.

“Are we really going to make law-abiding citizens felons?” Mr. Blankenbush said.

Mr. Griffo said some parts of the law are positive, including increased penalties for people who murder first responders and a policy designed to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. But he said he wishes he had an opportunity to vote on each provision separately.

“The overwhelming responses from my constituents agree with my vote,” he said.

Mrs. Ritchie agreed.

“It was hard for me considering that there are parts of the legislation that I think are good,” she said. “But it potentially makes a law-abiding citizen into a criminal.”

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