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County legislators ask for gun permit deadline extension

Mike Desmond

Erie County legislators have unanimously asked Albany to extend the deadline for renewing pistol permits, noting potentially thousands of permit holders have not renewed.

It has become a daily part of life in Erie County Hall: pistol permit holders sitting around the county clerk's office, waiting for a chance to get into the permit office and go through the re-certification process. Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns says there have been 24,000 renewed there and more with the New York State Police.

"Whether the State Police enforce or non-enforce this, they say they're not enforcing it now," Kearns said. "At any point in time, you could get a knock on your door: 'You're in violation of the law.' Until the State Legislature or the governor comes out with an executive order, in my opinion as a former legislator, you're in violation of the law."

Legislator Ed Rath is a strong supporter of the extension, saying there has to be more time.

"About 25,000 of 50,000 pistol permit holders in Erie County are in compliance, so there's no way by January 31 of this year that we're going to comply, everyone is going to comply," Rath said, "and I've consulted with law enforcement and they said, 'Yes, this is going to be a huge problem' and law enforcement doesn't exactly know what to do after the 31st of January."

That 50,000 is a guess because records are very bad. For example, there are still some outstanding permits from the 1930s and it is not likely those permit-holders are still alive. Kearns said the oldest permit renewed so far was issued in 1947.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo says the governor needs to be called out on extending the gun permit re-certification deadline.

Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo said majority Democrats have softened the call for an extension of the January 31 deadline.

"Even the title, which is curious, we changed the title from calling on Governor Cuomo to extend the deadline to requesting a New York State review of the deadline," Lorigo said. "I know that there's been a history from some members of this Legislature that are skittish about calling out the governor, but the governor is really the only one who can extend this deadline."

It is a problem across the state, compounded by the records problems. The county clerk has tried to set up a scheduling system and will be in Springville Friday helping people re-certify.

Also open Friday will be the new pistol permit satellite office in Elma. Located at Elma Town Hall, Kearns said the office will be open weekly on Fridays. Fees will be payable by credit card only.

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.
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