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SAFE Act opponents spark Potsdam village board argument

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POTSDAM — The public comment period during Monday’s village board meeting became heated when Mayor Steven W. Yurgartis attempted to cut short comments opposing the state Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.

Village resident Dean D. Laubscher took to the podium to ask the board to pass a symbolic resolution condemning the NY SAFE act, similar to those already passed by other municipalities. Mr. Yurgartis interrupted, saying the matter has been discussed so much, it has become redundant.

“The village board has already heard about this issue on three separate occasions, and we have already made a decision,” he said, adding that the board does not plan to take any official action on the matter.

Mr. Laubscher would not take no for an answer.

“I am a taxpaying resident of the village of Potsdam, and I will address the village board,” he said.

He acknowledged that gun control is a sensitive subject to bring up on the day of a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard that left 13 dead. At issue, he said, is the state’s sudden passing of the SAFE Act with minimal discussion, a move he called “draconian.”

After he finished, village resident Melissa A. Kellison stood to present a similar argument. She was interrupted several times by Trustee Ruth F. Garner, who eventually ordered her to “stop this nonsense.”

Mrs. Garner and Mr. Yurgartis both argued that the village has heard the same arguments many times before, and allowing further comments on the matter is merely delaying other village business.

It is not, they said, within the village’s purview to pass legislation that does not directly affect the affairs of the village.

“You’re going to the wrong venue. Why don’t you go to a state representative? We have no power,” Mrs. Garner said.

Trustees Eleanor F. Hopke and Stephen J. Warr were more receptive to the suggestion that the board vote on a resolution.

Mr. Warr said official action should be taken. Whatever the result, it would end the argument, he said.

“Whether they like the answer or not, at least we can put this to rest,” he said.

Trustee Ronald Tischler was not at the meeting.

Although Mr. Yurgartis opposed the idea of a vote, he stayed after the meeting to discuss the matter with the members of the public in attendance. There are still no plans for action, but Mr. Yurgartis said he will continue to discuss the issue with board members to decide whether to settle the matter for good.

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