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Erie County legislators endorse repeal of new gun laws, as Cuomo stands firm


Erie County lawmakers voted 7-4 Thursday afternoon in favor of a resolution calling for repeal of the state's new gun control laws. Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo, in Buffalo today, said political opposition to the NY SAFE Act is based in "fear."The bipartisan legislature vote made Erie the largest New York county to vote in opposition to the act. Democratic legislators Thomas Loughran and Terrence McCracken joined Republicans Ed Rath, Kevin Hardwick, Lynne Dixon, John Mills, Joseph Lorigo in voting in favor of the resolution. Democrats Lynn Marinelli, Betty Jean Grant, Timothy Hogues and Thomas Mazur voted against.

“Today’s resolution lets Albany know that Erie County remains a place in the state where one’s Second Amendment rights are respected,” said Minority Leader John Mills. “The SAFE Act lacked transparency, lacked input from constituents, and lacked common sense. Counties throughout New York State are in opposition to this bill. We are hopeful Albany will repeal, revisit and revise this bill so that we have legislation that doesn’t infringe on the rights of legal gun owners.”

Cuomo asserted that political "fear" is "wholly unfounded" because the law doesn't do what some people are afraid it will do. The Democrat said the purpose of the law is to keep assault weapons and high capacity magazines out of the hands of criminals and mentally ill people.

"No one wants to take anyone's gun. I'm a gun owner. We understand the Second Amendment fully. The flip side is this: many people have lost their lives. Innocent children have lost their lives. The danger from these assault weapons and high-capacity magazines when they get into the wrong hands are inarguable," Cuomo said.

Still, the governor said he expect "technical changes" will be made to the new law. He did not elaborate.

Cuomo made the comments after presenting his budget proposal at City Honors High School in Buffalo this morning.

The Erie County Legislature considered two separate resolutions regarding the state's tough new gun control laws at today's session. A gun rally was held prior to the session outside of County Hall.

Gun advocates urged county lawmakers to approve a Republican-sponsored resolution that opposes the NY SAFE Act. County Democrats floated a resolution for changing parts of law and toss out gun re-registration rules.

Legislature chairwoman Betty Jean Grant, at a morning committee meeting, called for sending the resolutions back to committee to give lawmakers more time to review them.  But gun rights supporter Rus Thompson says county lawmakers have had plenty of time.

Credit Mike Desmond/WBFO News
Erie County is the latest legislature to vote against the NY SAFE Act.

"They've had two weeks to discuss this. Betty Jean Grant, in her interviews, is saying the people need to have some input. We did. January 19, we had 3,200 people at a protest rally in downtown Buffalo. Wasn't that enough for the people's voice to be heard?," Thompson said.

Six counties in Western New York, including Niagara, already passed resolutions calling for a repeal of the SAFE Act.

Republican Erie County Legislator Ed Rath says sending a repeal message from Erie County should get the attention of Governor Cuomo.

"He has to listen to the voice of the residents of New York State on this issue. We'll be the 24th county of 62 to pass a revision of these gun laws," Rath told WBFO.

Rath says a "very lively" discussion was held this morning during a work session that reexamined both gun resolutions. 

“I received hundreds of calls and emails in opposition to the SAFE Act from Erie County residents. Unfortunately, the state didn’t allow residents that same opportunity. The law was jammed through Albany by executive legislative gimmicks and without input from New York State residents, leaving gun owners unsure of what this law actually means to them. It created more questions than answers and that’s unacceptable,” said Legislator Joseph Lorigo.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.