Gun locks will be available from Beacon police
By Jeff Simms
A hotly debated gun storage law has been adopted in Beacon, making it the first municipality in the Highlands to legislate safe storage while Philipstown considers a similar statute.
The Beacon law, passed Dec. 5 by the City Council on a 6-1 vote, requires gun owners to keep loaded firearms in a “safe-storage depository” (gun safe) or to be equipped with a “gun-locking device” when children and teenagers 16 years or younger live in or are visiting a home.
The law does not contain an earlier provision that would have allowed handgun bullets to be sold only to gun owners with a firearms license. During the Dec. 5 meeting, the council also removed language that would have applied the law to circumstances involving the mentally ill or persons under restraining orders.
Although Council members admit the law will be difficult to enforce, it includes fines of up to $250 or jail time of up to 15 days. On a second offense or when a first offense results in injury or death, violators may be fined up to $1,000 or face jail time of up to a year.
Council member George Mansfield said that while he supports teaching gun safety to children and teenagers, “I don’t believe education is the answer to this and it certainly should not be in lieu of this. I don’t think you’re going to be educating toddlers, and toddlers are often the ones who are hurt in homes.”
Mayor Randy Casale cast the lone vote against the measure, calling it redundant and saying “it’s not going to accomplish what we want it to accomplish.”
The law is modeled after one passed by the Albany city council in 2015 but adds the language regarding minors. Gun-rights advocates criticized the proposal during two public hearings, calling it unconstitutional and unenforceable. However, City Attorney Nick Ward-Willis advised the council that the statute passes constitutional muster.
“Even if it’s never enforced and it’s only from education that people further secure the devices in these instances with minors, that’s a good thing,” Councilperson Lee Kyriacou said before the vote.
The safe-storage movement began to gain momentum in New York after Nicholas Naumkin, 12, was killed in 2010 in Saratoga County by a 12-year-old friend playing with a handgun found in the home. A proposal for a statewide law was approved by the Assembly last year but failed to pass the Senate.
Safe-storage measures have been adopted in Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Westchester County and New York City.
Gun-rights supporters were dissatisfied with the Beacon council’s vote, noting that New York already requires background checks on firearm buyers. Peter Pavelock, a Beacon resident and retired Dutchess County law enforcement officer, called the measure a violation of the Second Amendment. “It’s a fruitless law,” he said. “We don’t need a law like that and there’s nobody to enforce it.”
Philipstown resident Alex Dubroff, who is the Hudson Valley coordinator for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and has urged the Philipstown Town Board to adopt a gun storage law, applauded the move.
“This law will increase awareness of the need to maintain the safe and secure storage of firearms and significantly reduce the possibility of a tragedy in the city of Beacon,” she said.
The Beacon Police Department recently received 100 locks for handguns and will be putting together a program to distribute the devices.