Gun owners attend workshop but no public comment heard
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
A Putnam County gun-rights group asked its members to appear en masse at the Oct. 19 Philipstown Town Board workshop to protest its consideration of a proposed law requiring safe storage of guns in local homes. A number did, but public comment is not taken at workshops, typically, so no one from any side of the debate held forth.
Supervisor Richard Shea informed the audience that the workshop was largely on other issues, and the board would only be voting to send the proposed law to the town attorney for review, which it did, by a 4 to 1 vote. (Bob Flaherty, who voted no, said later he doesn’t think it’s the role of a town government to enact such laws.)
Shea took a few questions from guns-rights activists who asked why advocates for the safe-storage law were allowed to speak at the board’s meeting Oct. 6 and how they could make their own presentation. Shea and board member Nancy Montgomery instructed them on how to request a spot on the agenda.
Advocates for the safe-storage law, which would require gun owners to secure weapons when they are not in use, argue that it will protect children and save lives by preventing unauthorized use of guns, including in suicides.
In an “action alert” sent by email Oct. 17, the Putnam County Firearm Owners Association informed its members of “another Putnam town trying to infringe on our rights, making us less safe.” It added: “We must show up in numbers to nip this in the bud before it spreads through our county like a cancer.”
Advising firearm owners to “get there early” because of limited parking, the group stated, “It is critical all gun owners show up for this no matter what town you live in. Once it starts it will spread!”
Montgomery said before the workshop that she welcomed the interest of gun owners. “Citizen participation is the heart of democracy,” she said. “It’s nice to see people participating.” She noted that the item was added to the workshop agenda at her request. “I could have done this last week,” when the board held a budget preparation workshop, “but knowing what conspiracies would arise” decided “to give this time before moving it. I’ve been waiting a long time to do something about this.”
Proposed Safe Storage Ordinance — Philipstown
1. No person who owns or is a custodian of a handgun shall store or otherwise leave such handgun out of his or her immediate possession or control without first having (a) locked such handgun in an appropriate safe storage depository which must be bolted to the floor or a wall and must have a combination lock or padlock and which would prevent unauthorized access to a firearm, or (b) rendered such handgun incapable of being fired by use of a gun-locking device appropriate to that handgun.
2. No person who owns or is a custodian of a weapon other than a handgun shall store or otherwise leave such a weapon out of his or her immediate possession or control without having first (a) locked such weapon in an appropriate safe storage depository which would prevent unauthorized access to a firearm, or (b) rendered such weapon incapable of being fired by use of a gun-locking device appropriate to that weapon.
3. For purposes of paragraphs 1. and 2., a handgun shall mean any pistol or revolver. A weapon shall mean a “rifle,” “shotgun,” firearm,” other than a pistol or revolver, or “machine gun,” as those terms are defined in Section 265.00 of NYS Penal Law.
4. Any violation of paragraph 1. shall be a misdemeanor or shall be punishable by imprisonment of not more than one year or by a fine not to exceed $1,000, or both.
When the Town Board last addressed gun control in 2011 with a law that would have banned guns on town property, a ruckus ensued, including inside the meeting chamber at Town Hall. Under threats of lawsuits from gun-control opponents, it shelved that proposal but later, as part of its employee protection-workplace safety provisions, adopted the prohibition.