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Democrats sought warning signs at firearm shops
A proposal to post signs in Dutchess County gun shops to warn customers of the dangers of firearms failed on July 7 to make it out of the county Legislature’s Government Services Committee and onto the floor for a vote by all 25 legislators.
Instead, Republican members of the Legislature, and some of the county residents who commented on the proposal, suggested the state reverse its 2019 bail reform laws if it wants to reduce gun violence.
The proposal, introduced last month by the Democratic caucus, would have required signs to be posted anywhere a firearm can be purchased that read:
“Warning: Access to a firearm in the home significantly increases the risk of suicide, death during domestic violence disputes and the unintentional death of children, household members or others.”
The signs would also have included the phone numbers of the Dutchess County Helpline and the National Suicide Hotline.
Shops failing to post the signs would have been subject to a $250 fine. Westchester County legislators unanimously passed a similar resolution in May.
During the Dutchess committee meeting on July 7, Republican leaders maintained that the law would have been unenforceable and would have no impact on gun violence. Gregg Pulver, the Legislature’s chair, read aloud a news report about a Dutchess County man who had been sent to prison after he held a middle school principal hostage in Pine Plains in 2009 while armed with a shotgun and was arrested again in April with a loaded shotgun that was illegal for him to own.
“You think a sign is going to stop these kinds of people from using guns in their possession?” he asked. “Absolutely not. It’s fictitious.” Pulver accused the Democratic legislators of wanting “to make this into some political football for themselves.”
Echoing a Poughkeepsie resident who had earlier criticized the “turnstile catch-and-release of prisoners,” Pulver said overturning the state’s bail reform law, which was heralded at the time of its passage by racial justice advocates, would be more effective. “Anybody who thinks a sign in a gun store will have any effect, even on one life, is fooling themselves and the public,” he said.
That one life is what elected officials should be thinking about, countered Legislator Yvette Valdes-Smith, a Democrat whose district includes part of Beacon.
“This is not about taking anybody’s guns away,” she said. “Can we please look at this as parents and friends and neighbors? If [a sign] helps make one gun owner think twice to be more diligent, preventing one domestic violence incident, one suicide, one unintentional death of a child, then it is worth that effort.”
After nearly two hours of debate, the legislative attorney interjected, saying she had earlier that day received a memo from County Attorney Caroline Blackburn suggesting the proposal may be preempted by an existing county law, and might restrict the commercial free speech of firearms dealers.
That effectively ended the discussion, and the measure was defeated, 7-4, which kept it off the full Legislature’s agenda for Monday (July 11).