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Town of Boston Board asks that SAFE Act be reversed

After weeks of anticipation, the Boston Town Board held a public hearing regarding the New York State Safe Act in an effort to hear the opinions of town residents regarding the recent state legislation.

Several residents in attendance, including Councilman Jay Boardway, made it very clear where they stand in relation to the government’s attempt to regulate the use of firearms in this state.

“This is an informational hearing regarding a resolution that this board proposes to pass, requesting specifically Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York to rescind and amend the New York State Safe Act,” said Boardway at the March 6 meeting. “On Jan. 14 of this year, our second amendment rights in this state were trampled on, infringed upon – parts of them taken away. In my position here as a representative for 8,032 residents in this town, I can’t sit here and let that happen.

“I am a gun owner,” he said. “I’m a life member of the (National Rifle Association); I am a hunter. I have been involved in these sports for all of my life. I’ve taught my children all these same things, that they hunt, they’re safe with firearms. To have the state government come in and decide under what the governor called ‘a message of necessity’ that he could infringe upon our rights, take these rights right away from us – it’s intolerable to me.

“I proposed this legislation, this resolution for the board on the recommendation of multiple people. We want the town residents to have the opportunity to be heard, either for or against this resolution.”

Steven Alstat, a member of the Boston Valley Conservation Club, was the first to take the opportunity to speak: “I’d like to urge the board to pass the resolution asking for this law to be repealed,” he began. “There’s virtually nothing in this law that is worth amending or saving. Even the best parts of this law, the parts that add restrictions for using a gun on a crime, aren’t necessarily going to do much, because the problem is not that we don’t have proper sentences for committing crimes; the problem is that the gun crimes are typically plea-bargained away, and if they would simply enforce the laws as they are, the people who are committing crimes with guns would be in jail and not out in the street.

“This bill targets people who have semi-automatic rifles and modern sporting guns, in the last year for which there are statistics in New York State,” he continued. “The total number of homicides committed with any type of rifle in New York State was five – and that’s not even talking about semi-automatic weapons; that’s any type of rifle. So there’s no justification for the assault weapons ban . . . .”

“There are so many technical flaws in this bill that it should be repealed immediately. As of March 15, there’s a section in this bill that adds a new crime in penal code 265.01B. It’s called ‘criminal possession of a firearm,’ and you’re guilty of this if you are a person who possesses a firearm. The penal code 265 has exemptions for the crimes of possessing a firearm: for example, if you’re law enforcement or if you have a pistol license. But when they added it in this new line, they didn’t make any exemptions in it. So as it stands now, come March 15, everyone in New York State, including law enforcement and people with pistol licenses, are going to be guilty of criminal possession of a firearm. So I’d just like to ask this board to pass the resolution asking for the repeal of this law.”

Linda Kaczca and Tom Winters, both Boston residents, spoke up in favor of the resolution. “Our second amendment rights have been trampled on, and if you make the governor angry enough, he may take away our first amendment rights, the right to meet. I mean, what’s stopping him?” said Kaczca.

“Our second amendment rights, along with our first, fourth, fifth and all the rest – they’re not up for discussion and they’re not up for debate, not by Governor Cuomo or anyone else. So thank you for putting that forward, and I urge you to pass it,” said Winters.

Boardway moved to approve resolution 2013-06, which was “to amend NY Safe Act.” The resolution argues that this act “was rushed through the Senate and Assembly without a single public hearing or input from the various law enforcement agencies located around our state and . . . even the state lawmakers did not have time to review the bill as presented, leaving questions about implementation and regulation of this new law.” The resolution also states that “this law should focus on increasing penalties for criminals who use firearms to harm and threaten law-abiding citizens and address the issues of mental illness related to violence.”

Finally, the board formally resoled “that the town board of the town of Boston urgently ask (Cuomo) and the legislative leaders to suspend this law as soon as possible and to look at all the aspects of gun control using the proper legal procedure to bring about a law that will address gun control in a more logical manner, focusing on the real issue related to gun control – a law that will strengthen the effect on public safety and not infringe upon our constitutional rights.”

This resolution was unanimously approved by the board and was to be forwarded to Cuomo, Honorable Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Majority Leader of Independent Democratic Caucus Jeff Klein, Honorable Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, Honorable Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, Honorable Leader of the Assembly Ron Canestrari, Honorable Minority Leader of the Assembly Brian Kolb and the Western New York Delegation and Erie County Legislators.

“I appreciate the support, obviously, for our resolution on the Safe Act,” said Boardway during his presentation. “It’s a long way away. There’s been some litigation in preliminary stages around the state with the support of actually most municipalities in the state, the majority of counties in the state. Sheriffs’’ departments have jumped in on this thing. Most recently, just this past Friday, March 1, supreme court judge downstate did in fact direct the state itself, Governor Cuomo personally and his people, to prove why they felt this ‘message of necessity’ in that law was necessary. They have until March 11 to do that. So this is going to be an ongoing process. But again, I’ve said this before, the grassroots is what really will get this thing going, people here at our level, and let it go uphill instead of downhill for a change.”

In other board matters:

• Resident Rich Hawkins brought up to the board the matter regarding the bridge on Hillcroft Drive, stating, “[It] was supposed to be done back when I was still in office, because of all the flood damage and everything else, and the trees coming down and hitting that bridge and turning it, causing severe problems. They were supposed to resurvey that, I thought, around 2011, and possibly do a replacement of that bridge in 2012. It’s now 2013, and I’m just asking if anything is being done about that situation.”

“We just toured that as one of our tour spots late Monday afternoon, and [Supervisor] Marty [Ballowe] took us under the bridge . . . it looks like to me the abutments are cracked, and some of the buttresses are bent, and from what I understand, the money that was scheduled to get that done was diverted to another town, so now we’re without anything. So we’re trying to get some assistance from Legislator (John) Mills to get that job done because there’s a litigation probability there. So we’re working on that without argument to get that done,” said Councilman Larry Murtha.

“The bridge was built in 1935. They took it off again for 2013. It seems our town has a problem with getting money from legislators in our county . . . from snowplowing on our roads to getting bridges fixed, to getting trees cut back off of roads. It’s a constant thing, and the more noise that our town makes, I think it’s only beneficial to us, but it seems like if we were a bigger town as Amherst, they have no problem fixing the roads and doing things who get about six inches of snow a year to our 60 inches of snow a year and get the damage of the flooding of our bridges and everything else. Any call that you make to legislators’ offices or county offices is always appreciated on our end. We’re diligently trudging through snow and trying to get these projects done . . . . Every single year we go after that bridge money,” Ballowe said

“That bridge is going to fall into the creek,” said Councilman Boardway. “People are going to get hurt. This town’s going to get sued. There’s interesting politics going on in the county that have to do with why that came off the list this year. Allegedly, the county executive decided to remove $9 million of infrastructure funds primarily from districts represented by republicans. Now there’s going to be some legislature stuff going on tomorrow at the Erie County legislator on that issue, so maybe check that out. But I hear that’s where we might want to send our concerns, about that $9 million (very specific number) disappearing out of the approved money that should have gotten that bridge fixed for us.”

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