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State bill to restrict gun storage

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    A bill is headed for the governor’s desk that would mandate the safe storage of guns in certain households.
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    An exhibit of firearms at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas, May 4, 2018. The New York state Assembly and Senate have passed legislation requiring the safe storage of guns in households with children and residents not permitted to own a gun under federal or state law. The bill will next go to the governor for review.
March 6, 2019 04:49 pm Updated: March 7, 2019 12:04 am

ALBANY — State lawmakers passed legislation Monday to expand requirements for storing guns in certain households.

The current law requires firearms to be stored securely in homes where a person lives who is prohibited under federal law from owning a gun, but does not apply to households with children.

If signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the new legislation — Assembly bill A02686 and bill S02450A in the Senate — would require safe gun storage in households with children under the age of 16 and individuals prohibited from gun ownership under state or federal law when the weapon is not in the owner’s possession. Safe storage is defined as the use of a gun-locking device or a safe.

The law applies when any children are present in the home, even if they do not live there. Gun owners younger than 16 who have a hunting license or permit would be excluded from the law.

The bill also requires licensing officers to inform applicants about safe storage of firearms. Sellers of firearms, rifles or shotguns would be required to post notification of the safe storage laws where guns are displayed or sold.

The law would apply to all firearms, including shotguns, rifles and handguns. Under the law, failure to safely store firearms is a class A misdemeanor.

Bob Monteleone, former president of the Greene County Federation of Sportsmen and the current president of the Catskill Mountain Fish and Game Club, said the law was unnecessary.

“My guns are locked and safe so my grandchildren and anyone else can’t get at them. The only people who can get at them are people with the combination to the safe, which are me and my wife,” Monteleone said.

The gun owners Monteleone comes into contact with also keep their firearms safely stored, he said.

“As a hunter instructor, I would say gun safety is not an issue in Greene County,” Monteleone said. “I don’t see people doing what they shouldn’t with their guns. They take them to the gun range, they shoot them and they put them away. Anybody that takes guns home at my club stores them in a safe and just uses them how they are supposed to be used and what the Second Amendment allows them to be used for.”

The existing gun regulations on the books are enough, said Joseph Nastke of Shooter’s Sports, 3067 Main St., Valatie.

“I personally believe the laws we have currently are more than adequate,” Nastke said. “They go ahead and pass these laws without consulting anyone who interprets or enforces the law. I wish the politicians — prior to making the laws — would do a little research.”

Dave Newkirk, president of the Kinderhook Sportsmen’s Club, 376 Fowler Lake Road, Ghent, and a state firearm safety instructor for 40 years, said it’s unnecessary for the bill to be adopted into law and would make things easier for criminals.

“A felon is not supposed to have a weapon anyway, so why enforce a law that is already on the books?” Newkirk asked. “Children under 16 should be trained and taught that a firearm is a dangerous implement and not to be touched. That should be taught to them by professional instructors. The bill is crazy — it won’t curb crime whatsoever and will make it more dangerous for homeowners. If you have a burglar, you have to run to your gun cabinet and try to protect yourself and it won’t do anything to help the homeowner. It will make things easier for the criminal.

“Whether they have children under 16 or not, people should be able to protect themselves,” Newkirk added. “The more laws on the books against law-abiding citizens, the more criminals know that they have access.”

Education is more important than putting new laws into effect, said Don La Valley, former president of the Columbia County Sportsmen’s Federation. La Valley is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and is also a hunter safety instructor.

“The sportsmen in the past have not supported gun legislation in New York state,” La Valley said. “We feel there are enough laws on the books, so adding more gun laws doesn’t really help the situation. Education is more of a safety matter. There are instructors who teach hunter safety and other programs that can be utilized already.”

La Valley doesn’t know anyone who leaves guns where children could obtain them, he said.

“One of the things the NRA gun course teaches is storing guns safely in our house so the wrong people don’t have access to them,” he added. “They recommend you store them in a locked case and ammunition in a separate locked cabinet; that has been their recommendation for the last 40 years.

“We are overregulating ourselves. If the Democrats have their way, we wouldn’t have guns. The only ones who follow the laws are the law-abiding citizens, sportsmen and your average man and woman that wants to protect themselves. They are the ones that will suffer.”

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-88, introduced the bill.

“Despite all our progress, it is still simply too easy for guns to fall into the wrong hands,” according to a statement from Paulin. “Preventing children from obtaining access to firearms by requiring safe storage will enable us to prevent accidents, suicides and school incidents that put our children in harm’s way. It is an important step that will keep our families safe without impinging on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

“Today’s bill is another important step in preventing gun violence,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-83, in a statement. “Earlier this year, we passed a package of legislation that addressed some of the root causes of gun violence. I am proud of our continued work with our Senate colleagues to ensure New York has the strongest and safest possible gun laws and help keep our kids safe in our homes and in our communities.”

Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, feels the law is an unnecessary infringement on rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment and does not remediate the injustice of the Secure Ammunition or Firearms Enforcement Act, or SAFE Act, enacted in the state in 2013.

“I am always dubious of gun control bills and this is no different,” Tague said in a statement. “There’s always talk of this in Albany and it always comes down to the same thing: Restricting the freedoms of law-abiding citizens and their constitutional right to bear arms. This bill doesn’t do anything to answer the question of illegal handguns in the hands of criminals, nor does it seek to address the massive injustice of the SAFE Act. We have laws handling the storage of firearms already. This bill is wasteful and just another attack on New Yorkers’ rights — end of story.”

The bill was passed by both the Assembly and the Senate on Monday. The bill will be sent to Cuomo for his review.