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Lawsuit over gun control may be more effective than legislation

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New York state residents who didn’t feel the “need for speed” in the passage of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s gun control legislation, which was passed using a message of necessity, now have more than one recourse.

A handful of counties, including Jefferson County, have passed or are considering passing resolutions opposing the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013.

Concurrently, We the People of New York Inc. is bringing a multiple-plaintiff lawsuit against the state government.

Despite the growing list of counties opposing the act, some are saying the lawsuit has a better chance of yielding results.

“Going through the courts is probably your only chance to get it repealed,” said Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River. “It would be almost impossible to repeal it legislatively” because those who oppose it do not have the votes to initiate a repeal.

Mr. Blankenbush said he thinks the resolutions passed by the counties are still a good idea but would have been more important before the bill was passed.

“This debate should have happened before the passage, not after the passage. ... These resolutions would have more power if this was all done prior to our vote. ... This is a good example of a bill that should never have come down with a message of necessity,” he said.

Lead plaintiff Robert L. Schulz said the lawsuit aims to strike down the NY SAFE Act primarily on the grounds that Gov. Cuomo brought it forward under false pretenses.

The message of necessity, which waives the three-day review period for any bill, was a “sham,” according to the lawsuit.

“There was no need for speed. The legislature was not scheduled to adjourn for the year, we were not under attack and there was no natural or man-made disaster,” the lawsuit asserts.

Under the state constitution, the governor is empowered to bring a bill to vote before the passage of the three-day waiting period if the facts warrant an immediate vote in “his or her opinion.”

Last year, a lawsuit challenging the gay marriage bill on essentially the same grounds was dismissed by the court.

Gov. Cuomo signed the NY SAFE Act into law Jan. 15 and said the message of necessity was intended to prevent a run on stores selling soon-to-be-banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

The lawsuit dismisses the governor’s justification as manufactured in the “interest of political expediency.”

Jefferson County legislators have said the way in which the bill was passed prevented sensible scrutiny of its provisions and resulted in a deeply flawed piece of legislation.

Mr. Schulz, along with Judith Whitmore, New York state coordinator for We the People of New York Inc., presented the lawsuit Saturday afternoon to Jefferson County residents at a gathering at the Italian American Civic Association, 192 Bellew Ave.

The lawsuit is not a class-action. Each individual who signs onto it is listed as a separate plaintiff, something that Mr. Schulz says is unique.

“Each person is themselves suing the governor for violating the three-day rule,” he said.

Jefferson County Legislator John D. Peck, R-Great Bend, who went to the meeting, said it was “very well attended ... on a very short notice.”

Mr. Schulz said slightly fewer than 150 people showed up. A great number of them signed on to the lawsuit, according to Mr. Peck.

Steven R. Glick, the county coordinator for We the People, puts that number at approximately 90 notarized signatures.

As of Thursday, 1,333 plaintiffs had joined the lawsuit, according to the group’s website: www.wethepeopleofny.org. Mr. Schulz said he expects to file the lawsuit next week.

In addition to its lawsuit, We the People of New York is planning to circulate a petition for redress that, once signed by at least 3 percent of the population of the state, will be served on state legislators, the governor, the chief judge and all sheriffs and local government officials in New York. Such petitions have no weight in law in New York state.

A similar petition started by state Sen. Kathleen A. Marchione, a Republican in the 43rd district, “to repeal and replace restrictive new gun control measures” had garnered 123,533 signatures as of Wednesday.

The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association also has threatened to sue the state over the act.

The Jefferson County Board of Legislators is expected to bring a resolution opposing the NY SAFE Act forward sometime in the next couple of weeks. Legislators have said the resolution will be considered by a committee before coming to a vote before the full board.

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