Proposed law would require weapons be safely stored, restrict ammo sales
By Jeff Simms
An impassioned crowd of around 40 people came out Sept. 19 to a public hearing on a law that, if enacted, would add Beacon to the list of cities and counties in the state that require secure storage of firearms and ammunition, including New York, Albany, Rochester and Westchester County. A proposal to make secure storage a state law was approved by the Assembly last year but failed in the Senate.
The proposed city law would require firearms to be securely locked in an “appropriate safe-storage depository” to decrease “the likelihood of death or injury from accidents or impulsive acts.”
The law also would tighten regulations for the sale of ammunition, allowing it to only be sold in Beacon “to persons possessing a valid firearms license, when a license is required for the type of firearm for which the ammunition is used.”
Beacon Council member Ali Muhammad introduced the proposal earlier this year. While initial feedback was lukewarm, he and Council member George Mansfield continued pushing the initiative.
The safe-storage movement gained momentum in New York after Nicholas Naumkin, 12, was shot dead in 2010 in Saratoga County by a 12-year-old friend playing with a handgun found in his home.
The Beacon proposal is modeled after one passed by the Albany city council last year. Mansfield said the law, if adopted, would be largely symbolic due to the difficulty of enforcing it.
“Police will not be entering homes to confirm that safety measures are being followed, much like the building department not being allowed in people’s homes to make sure building codes are in compliance,” he said. “But it’s making people aware that even though you think you might be careful, anything can happen.” He said he hopes the discussion creates a “heightened level of concern” among gun owners.
Penalties for violators would include fines starting at $250 and possibly jail time (not to exceed 15 days).
During the hearing, the proposed regulations drew the ire of residents who said they already practice responsible gun ownership.
“Firearm handling is a safety issue and the only way to resolve the issue is education,” said John Berry, who said he has trained more than 600 hunters in the region in firearm safety.
Lou Amoroso, Jr., called the regulations invasive and unnecessary. “I thought this was the United States,” he said. “Anybody who owns a firearm and you don’t keep it in a safe, you’ve got a serious problem.”
Amoroso said that while he supports safe storage, he has a problem with “you telling me how I’m going to control what goes on in my house.”
Others urged the council to adopt the measure.
“This has the potential to save lives, which cannot be understated,” said Alex Dubroff, a Philipstown resident who is the Hudson Valley coordinator for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. “The law does not impede the ability of a person to use their gun in the home for self-defense since it does not apply when the person is in possession or control of the gun.”
(Earlier this year, Dubroff started a petition at moveon.org to press the Philipstown Town Board to adopt a safe-storage law. It currently has 345 signatures.)
Beacon resident Ben Nathan said the law would set a community standard for safe gun practices.
“It’s not about breaking into peoples’ homes and checking in their closets,” he said. “It is about making a statement together.”
In all, more than a dozen people spoke during the hearing, with the numbers split almost evenly for and against.
The proposal will be on the agenda for the next City Council workshop, scheduled for Monday, Sept. 26.