Philipstown to hold hearing on revised proposal to require locks
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
As gun-rights advocates watched warily, the Philipstown Town Board on Wednesday (Jan. 17) scheduled a public hearing on a proposed law requiring that a resident lock up a firearm if leaving home without it.
The hearing, set for Feb. 21, will be held at the Haldane school auditorium or another venue large enough for the expected crowd. The board did not discuss details of the proposed “safe-storage” law, intended to protect children.
Shortly before the meeting, Putnam County District Attorney Robert Tendy submitted a five-page memo objecting to the proposal. Unable to attend the workshop, Tendy wrote that he hoped his critique could be read aloud by an audience member. However, because the board took no comments from the floor, his views remained on paper — for the night, anyway.
New York State law requires gun owners to use a locking device on any weapon not in their immediate control if the owner lives with someone who cannot legally possess a firearm because he or she is a felon, has been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment, is subject to a protective order or has been convicted of domestic violence.
New York, though, is not among the 27 states that require gun safes or trigger locks in the presence of children, according to the Giffords Law Center, which advocates gun control.
Since raising the gun-storage issue in the fall of 2016, the Town Board has considered various versions of the proposal. When it re-opened the debate in December, its draft stipulated that “no owner or custodian of a firearm shall leave” it “out of his or her immediate possession or control in a residence without” having given it to a responsible custodian, stored it in a locked container, or disabled it with a safety lock. The text focused on “possession or control” of a gun.
The latest draft, the subject of the Feb. 21 hearing, places more emphasis on the gun owner’s presence in a house. It requires that a gun owner never leave a weapon “out of his or her possession or control in a residence” while knowing, or having reason to know, that a child under age 18 is there, unless that owner also is present, gave the gun to a lawful custodian for safekeeping, placed it in a locked container, or disabled it with a safety locking device.
The text says the Town Board has determined that in the gun-owner’s absence the gun “should be kept locked or stored securely to prevent theft and/or access by children.”
Those convicted of breaking the Philipstown law could face fines of up to $1,000, up to a year’s imprisonment in the county jail, or both. But the draft says no penalties would apply if a person reports to police that a handgun has been lost or stolen.
Tendy attacked the proposed law for several reasons, including the belief it “is unenforceable” because the U.S. Constitution bans unlawful search and seizure.
Safe Storage in Beacon
The City Council in December 2016 passed a law that requires guns to be secured in a safe or with a trigger lock in the presence of anyone under age 16.
“There is no legal way for any law enforcement agency to enforce the law absent illegal spying or entry into the home of a citizen,” he argued. He acknowledged that the draft law reflects “a good intention.” Nonetheless, he added, even if motivated by good intentions, “no governing body can curtail the constitutionally protected rights of United States citizens.”
Tendy also questioned the provision on lost and stolen guns. “There appears to be an unfortunate presumption that a firearm being stolen would be the result of a violation of this proposed law,” he cautioned. “A legal presumption in this type of law is ill-advised.”