Aug 15th - 2:31 pm
Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh told me during a CapTon interview last night that he’s willing to go to court “if necessary” to block the release of pistol permit data to a private company that sells lists of information about sports enthusiasts to private businesses.
Emerges.com filed a Freedom of Information Law request seeking the permit information earlier this week, reigniting a debate that was first sparked in the wake of the Newtown tragedy when The Journal News published an interactive map featuring the names and addresses of permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties.
The newspaper ended up taking down the map after Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed the controversial SAFE Act through the Legislature because a provision of the new law allows permit holders to file a request for their information to be kept private and outside the realm of FOIL.
Walsh noted a provision in the Freedom of Inforamtion Law allows an agency to deny a request for “lists of names and addresses if such list would be used for commercial or fund-raising purposes,” and he believes emerges.com fits into that category.
But Bob Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, told the Syracuse Post-Standard that the SAFE Act trumps FOIL in this case. Walsh begs to differ, and is awaiting an opinion from the Association of Sheriffs, which, as you’ll recall, wasn’t a big fan of the SAFE Act to begin with and has joined a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.
In the meantime, Walsh has encouraged Onondaga County pistol permit holders who don’t want their information released to file an opt-out form ASAP, and it looks like people are heeding that call.
“We also, you know, are not in the position right now where we can release any lists anyway. We have over 10,000 processed opt-out forms that have been received by the sheriff’s office. But we have another, hard to get a count on them, just yet because they’re still coming in. But I looked at the pile today, and we have at least 2,500 that have not yet been processed. And it’s a manual process to put these things into a computer. And it just takes time and manpower that we do not have.”
Jun 28th - 11:56 am
From Liz’s Morning Memo:
The power of the SAFE Act backlash has not diminished over time. If anything, it has grown stronger among the small – yet vocal – minority of New Yorkers who were infuriated by its passage.
And even though it’s mostly Gov. Andrew Cuomo who has taken a hit at the polls due to his championing of this gun control measure, state lawmakers are not immune to the anger felt by gun rights advocates – a fact that could spell trouble for key legislators in next year’s elections.
A trio of senators got a rude awakening to the organizing abilities of the anti-SAFE Act movement during an event held in Buffalo yesterday afternoon.
Senate Co-Leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein traveled to Western New York to attend a policy event hosted by Sen. Mark Grisanti in the afternoon, and then headline a fund-raiser for the Buffalo Republican in the evening.
The afternoon event was supposed to focus on efforts in the Senate to help unemployed veterans, but it was hijacked by angry anti-SAFE Act protestors, who shouted down the senators when they tried – largely in vain – to stick to the scheduled program.
The protest was organized by the 2nd Amendment Coalition. The group’s leaders posted instructions on their Facebook page, urging members to get close to the senators to make sure they could be heard.
The Coalition says changes the Senate approved to the SAFE Act last week during the final days of the 2013 session left veterans out.
(The amendment itself addressed retired law enforcement officers, and also caused a split in the Senate GOP conference, with some members complaining about the timing of the vote, and others insisting they’re holding out for the pie-in-the-sky goal of full repeal).
One leader of the 2nd Amendment Coalition just so happens to be Rus Thompson, a controversial Tea Party figure who worked on Carl Paladino’s failed 2010 gubernatorial bid.
During a recent CapTon interview, Paladino made it clear that while he’s not planning on running again next year, he will use his political action committee to try to influence the balance of power in the Senate in hopes of toppling Skelos from his leadership role.
Grisanti will no doubt again be a target for Paladino. He’ll also be a target for the Senate Democrats, who are itching to win back the Democrat-dominated district the Democrat-turned-Republican lawmaker is currently representing.
Klein once had his eye on Grisanti as a potential member of the IDC. Apparently, both Skelos and Klein are willing to invest in trying to keep Grisanti where he is, regardless of whose conference he ends up joining – sort of a moot point, anyway, so long as the GOP-IDC coalition survives.
Grisanti also received some pressure from the left yesterday, compliments of campaign finance reform advocates who were angry he joined his fellow Republicans in voting down a hostile amendment that would have established a publicly financed system.
Mindful of the fact that the conservative grassroots is still smarting from the same-sex marriage vote two years ago, and steaming over the SAFE Act passage, the Senate Republicans drew a line in the sand over the abortion plank of the governor’s Women’s Equality Agenda and also refused to budget on campaign finance reform.
They may have played right into the governor’s hands, however, enabling him – not to mention the Senate Democrats – to keep two potent progressive issues alive heading into a key election year.
Conservatives insist anger over the SAFE Act could fuel even a no-name recognition challenger to Cuomo like Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin. But so far, it looks like the Senate Republicans have more to worry about than the governor does.
Jun 6th - 2:52 pm
Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs is threatening a lawsuit against Google if it doesn’t stop access to what he calls an “Illegal website.” Jacobs says the site reveals the identities and addresses of hundreds of thousands of pistol permit holders in New York State.
“We believe this is a violation of state law and we hope that Google will voluntarily pull the plug on this website,” said Jacobs.
Jacobs said the former website www.whospackingny.com is still accessible through a mirrored website on Google, MSN, Yahoo and AOL search engines. In a letter to google asking the site be taken down Jacobs wrote:
“The Databases unlawfully assemble and disseminate the names and homes addresses of New York pistol permit holders, in violation of those citizens’ privacy rights and New York Law.”
According to Jacobs, the database was provided to “whospackingny” by the New York State Police several years ago after receiving a Freedom of Information Request (FOIL). The New York SAFE Act, has an “opt out” provision designed to protect the identities of pistol permit holders.
“While investigating this website’s information we have identified over 9,000 Erie County pistol permit holder’s residential information listed. This is unacceptable and I believe completely undermines the privacy provision put forth in the NY SAFE Act,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs plans to discuss the issue with county clerks throughout the state.
May 20th - 1:09 pm
Erie County has seen a strong resistance to the NY SAFE Act. In addition to local gun rights advocates, several elected officials, including the county’s top cop, have been vocal critics of the law.
“I believe in my heart and my soul that it’s unconstitutional,” said Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard.
The Republican Sheriff has not only joined a lawsuit seeking to overturn the SAFE Act, he announced last week he won’t enforce it. It’s a position that’s made him a target.
“We elect a sheriff. We don’t elect a king. Kings get to make their own laws. Sheriffs get to follow the laws as written,” State Assemblyman Sean Ryan said.
The Buffalo Democrat said Howard’s refusal to enforce the SAFE Act could literally put people’s lives at risk. Those convicted of domestic violence, who have an order of protection against them, would have their firearms confiscated under the SAFE Act.
“Safety of victims of domestic violence isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. It’s an issue for all society to be concerned with,” Ryan said.
Howard balked at the suggestions his opposition to the law would put anyone in the community in danger, and suggested the SAFE Act is the real public threat.
“That is endangering people inNew York. It’s endangering the public and it’s endangering police and we’re supposed to say oh thank you, we’ll accept this and say nothing about it?” Howard asked.
Howard said his office is committed to protecting victims of domestic violence with the laws already on the books. In the wake of the Vito Lopez scandal, Howard questioned whether or not an Assembly Democrat should be raising the issue.
“Let them go back and get their own house in order, particularly if he wants to talk about domestic violence,” said Howard.
Howard pointed out that the district attorney has the ability to file charges under the SAFE Act. For Ryan that’s not good enough.
“As a top law enforcement individual in the county, your job is to enforce the laws. You don’t have the authority to pick and choose,” Ryan said.
Ryan suggested the Governor could remove Howard from office for not enforcing the law. Howard had a simple message response.
“If he thinks he can, go ahead and try,” Howard added.
Apr 24th - 11:49 pm
The attorneys representing an Amherst man who had his guns mistakenly confiscated under the New York SAFE Act believe they have proof State Police, and not the Erie County Clerk, were responsible for the error. After getting a subpoena, one of the Lawyers for David Lewis produced documents he said contradicts statements State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico made to YNN last week.
“The statement that they (State Police) simply provided a name and an age range for the Erie County Clerk to investigate has been proven to be patently false and an outright lie,” said Max Tresmond.
In front of several members of the Buffalo media Max Tresmond, and his father and legal partner Jim Tresmond, released documents they claim were sent to the Erie County Clerk’s office from New York State Police. The notification included detailed information about Lewis.
“They (State Police) described him as to his age. They described him as to his license number, as to his address, as to his mental facility. And now they deny that they were the reason his license was revoked. And I believe that the statement that he (D’Amico) made was inaccurate,” Jim Tresmond said.
Lewis was mistakenly found to be in violation of the mental health provision of the SAFE Act because his attorneys say he was prescribed anti-anxiety medication at “some point.” During a visit to Western New York Last week, D’Amico told several media outlets it was Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs’ job to investigate whether Lewis was indeed the man police were looking for.
“Well, you know what, it turns out that this Mr. Lewis that had his guns taken was not the Mr. Lewis on the 9.46 referral. What happened to Mr. Lewis, a lot of it falls on the county,” D’Amico added.
Jacobs believes the evidence released Wednesday absolves his office of any wrongdoing.
“We received specifics on one particular individual; there was no doubt that that’s who the state wanted us to act upon. We have to make sure this does not happen again,” Jacobs said.
A State Police spokesperson told YNN’s Meg Rossman that documents including pistol permits were issued to all counties with a David Lewis that fit a specific age range and it’s up to the clerks to determine if it’s a match. State Police also denied accessing Lewis’ Medical Records.
Meantime, State Assemblyman Ray Walter is calling for an investigation into what led to the confiscation of Lewis’ firearms. Walter is calling on the Inspector General’s office to open an investigation into the way the Division of Criminal Justice Services and the State Police administration handled the case.
“Everyone should be concerned about that and I think that we need to get to the bottom of what actually happened,” Walter said.
The Amherst Republican is also asking the IG’s office to look into the issue of improper searches under the mental health provision of the SAFE Act. He expects to file a formal request next week.
Jim Tresmond is also accusing the state of creating a “clandestine HIPAA unit” within the Division for Criminal Justice Services, charged with examining New York residents’ medical records without warrant. The charge is part of a lawsuit he plans to file on Lewis’ behalf next week.
Apr 11th - 2:58 pm
The State Police are countering Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs’ claim that they ordered him to revoke the pistol permit of an Amherst man because of his past use of anti-anxiety medication.
Jacobs announced in a press release earlier today that he had been “following a recommendation” from the law enforcement agency when he revoked the permit of David Lewis, who had been medicated “at one point,” according to his attorney.
Just before the close of business yesterday, Jacobs said, he receivd a call from the State Police saying they had made an error, which he was quick to cast as a failure to “do their due diligence.” But the State Police see the situation differently, as is evident by the following statement that they just released:
“The SAFE Act requires mental health professionals to file notification when a medical professional determines that an individual he or she is treating is at risk to themselves or others. Medical prescription records are strictly private and not shared with the state, and no firearm license would ever be revoked for an anti-anxiety prescription.”
“The notification forwarded to the Erie County Clerk’s Office required additional follow-up before a positive identification of a person at risk to themselves or others became final. The State Police was very clear in its letter to the Clerk’s Office regarding the need for due diligence and the need for a positive identification by the County before they removed any weapon.”
“The final determination on whether to revoke or suspend a pistol permit license rests solely with the County and the licensing officials. The State Police has no authority to suspend or revoke a pistol permit in these circumstances.”
Jacobs, a Republican, had said that this case is proof there is a “serious flaw” with the mental health provision of the SAFE Act, and he’s certainly not the first to make that claim.
Jacobs is scheduled to join me on CapTon this evening, and I’ll be getting his reaction to this latest development.
Apr 10th - 11:54 pm
Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs said the New York State Police made a mistake when they enforced a mental health provision of the New York SAFE Act. Jacobs said he was ordered in an email from State Police to contact David Lewis, 35, and notify him he had to turn over his firearms.
“On this one I’m disappointed with State Police but I will say more so I’m disappointed with the legislation that was passed,” Jacobs said.
Lewis’ attorney Jim Tresmond said his client was told to turn over several firearms because he was once prescribed anti-anxiety medication at “one point.” Tresmond said his client was told that violates part the new gun control law.
State police odered his pistol permit revoked and Lewis was forced to turn the guns over to Amherst Police. Wednesday, Jacobs told YNN’s Katie Cummings he received a call from State Police explaining that they had the wrong person.
“Whether it’s the wrong name, or the mental health source was flawed, they need to go through and flow chart this process. After they called, it became clear that the State did not do their job here, and now we all look foolish,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs, a Republican who’s been critical of the law, said the error is a symptom of “inherent flaws” in the mental health reporting provisions of the new state law.
“We see more and more provisions within this that are not well thought through because they never talked with anyone on the ground who’s going to be implementing it,” said Jacobs.
Before the mistake was revealed, Tresmond raised concerns over whether or not HIPPA or Lewis’ fourth amendment rights were violated.
“We should all be concerned about it because there are times in all of our lives when we may be prescribed this medication for one reason or another,” said Tresmond.
Jacobs said his office does not have a role in the required mental health background screenings nor does the judge who revoked Lewis’ pistol permit.
“We’re not assuming responsibility on this because we do believe it rests with state police and the flawed legislation. But we will act quickly to get the firearms back to the individual immediately,” Jacobs added.
State Police declined to comment.
Apr 4th - 10:45 am
Both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s coalition of mayors pushing for new gun control laws praised this morning the passage of new firearms regulations in Connecticut, the state where 26 people were killed at an elementary school late last year.
Cuomo, of course, successfully pushed through the nation’s first gun control package in the wake of that school shooting.
A legislative fix was included in that law, known as the SAFE Act, as part of the 2013-14 state budget.
“I applaud Governor Malloy and the Connecticut legislature for taking bold new action to protect the people of their state,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Today, Connecticut joins New York and a growing collection of states that are proving we can pass tough, common sense gun control laws that protect our citizens and make us safer. The horror of the Newtown tragedy instilled a new urgency across our entire nation that we can no longer accept the unforgivable violence caused by allowing deadly weapons to fall into the hands of the most dangerous elements of our society. Now we need Congress to show the same courage as Connecticut, Colorado and New York, as well as follow the will of the American people, by taking strong action to stop these tragedies in our country.”
Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, meanwhile, which has been pushing for stronger background checks nationwide, praised the Connecticut law as well.
“As Americans of both political parties continue to demand action from our elected officials to reduce gun violence, states like Connecticut are taking the lead by passing commonsense gun safety reforms that will help save lives,” said Mayors Against Illegal Guns Co-Chair and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “The state’s legislators demonstrated their commitment to honoring the memory of those lost in Newtown – and I thank them and Governor Malloy for their leadership. Now we need lawmakers in Washington to follow suit so that we can protect communities – and children – across the country.”
Connecitcut is the third state to pass gun control legislation this year. Colorado, the site of a movie theater shooting over the summer, also passed a new package of gun control measures as well.
Mar 27th - 2:04 pm
The “indefinite” suspension of the enforcement of a ban on magazines carrying more than seven rounds might just remain a permanent one, Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said in an interview that aired on Capital Tonight on Tuesday.
The final agreement on the state budget — which must still be approved by the Democratic-led Assembly on Thursday — will waive the April 15 effective date of the ban on magazines that can carry up to seven rounds.
The problem is most gun manufacturers do not make clips capable of carrying seven rounds. Cuomo had floated a possible compromise and “clarification” in the budget talks that would have allowed gun owners to keep the 10-round magazines, but load only seven bullets into the clip.
Gun owners who use their firearms for shooting competitions or at ranges may still load up to 10 rounds.
In the interview, Skelos said he doesn’t expect Cuomo to be willing to tweak that provision any further.
“I think the governor would prefer not to revisit it,” Skelos said. “It accomplishes I think what a lot of people were concerned about that there are not seven (round) clips made. So that will make sure that people can continue to legally purchase handguns, the clips will still be legal.”
Cuomo has insisted the move is not a scaling back of the gun control law, passed in the wake of the December 2012 school shooting in Connecticut, but simply a clarification in a deeply complex measure that ran nearly 80 pages.
The language inserted in the budget also clarifies that current law enforcement are exempt from the magazine provision as well.
Gun groups, however, reamin upset over the law, which includes an updated ban on assault weapons and a statewide handgun registry.
Skelos, who allowed a vote to go forward on the law alongside his Democratic Senate Co-President Jeff Klein, called the magazine provision an unintended error.
“We read the bill. There are always unintential consequences,” he said. “As I’ve said before, we acted in haste and we should learn from that.”
Mar 25th - 5:46 pm
The gun control law is tough enough, even if enforcing the ban on magazines that can carry more than seven rounds is being suspended for now, Senate Co-President Jeff Klein said.
“That was something even if we make the change, I think we still have a very tough gun law because remember even if they have a 10-round magazine, they still can only have seven bullets in it unless they’re at a gun range or at a shooting competition,” Klein told our NY1 colleague Zack Fink on Sunday.
The budget includes a provision that suspends the ban, which would have taken effect on April 15.
The law, known as the SAFE Act, also updates the state’s assault weapons ban and includes provisions for firearm registration.
That the law is still tough is something that both Klein and those opposed to the measure likely would agree on. Gun groups like the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association are seeking to overturn the measure in federal court.
Negotiations over the state budget included revising the magazine limitations, but had been dropped as legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought swift passage of the spending plan at the end.
That there’s no time element in the budget provision for when the ban would take effect suggests the Legislature and the governor may not be revisted in the future.
But the suspension of the enforcement date is also a compromise in that lawmakers who support the measure would not have to be forced in ultimately casting a vote on what many thought was scaling back the law. Cuomo insisted the move would have been a clarification.
For Klein’s part, he says he would have been uncomfortable casting any vote that would have dilluted the law.
“I stand by that legislation. I think the SAFE Act is the toughest gun control legislation in the nation. I was very proud to be a sponsor of that bill in the Senate I just only wish other states and the federal government enacted something as close in perfection to that bill.”
Liz will be sitting down with Klein this evening on Capital Tonight airing at 8 and for the encore at 11:30.