Peekskill Leaders Split On State's New Gun Laws

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Peekskill elected officials and school leaders are divided regarding the state's new gun laws. Photo Credit: file photo

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – Peekskill elected officials and school leaders have spoken out regarding the state’s new gun control efforts and not all are in favor of them.

Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster was among the state's mayors who signed a petition as part of Mayors Against Illegal Guns calling for tighter federal gun laws.

“I’m glad that New York State has taken a stance for tougher gun laws and that they moved quickly on it,” Foster said. “I hope the same thing happens in the other states throughout the nation and I know the federal government is going through the same debate. It would be great to have uniform regulations around the nation.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Tuesday making New York the first state to pass sweeping new gun laws since the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. The Democrat-controlled state Assembly passed the bill Tuesday after the state Senate approved it Monday.

The bill expands New York's assault weapons law to include semiautomatic pistols, rifles and shotguns with detachable magazines and one of several military-style features. New Yorkers would be allowed to keep an assault weapon but would need to register it with the state.

Under the new law, mental health practitioners would be required to report to local mental health officials when they believe a patient is likely to harm themselves or others. Law enforcement officers then would be authorized to confiscate that person's firearms.

Peekskill Schools Superintendent James Willis also has expressed support for gun reform at the state level. Willis was among 78 superintendents in the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents who signed a letter calling for tighter restrictions on assault weapons.

“We’ve made a very firm stance against the sale of semiautomatic weapons,” Willis said last week. “We sent a copy of the letter to our legislators, and I heard secondhand that the American Association of School Administrators has also picked up on some of our recommendations for gun control as well.”

District 95 Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D – Ossining) said Wednesday the bill was a step in the right direction in preventing gun violence, also said that some changes may have to be made to the legislation, such as eliminating the duplication of gun registry in both the county and the state in some counties, including Westchester.

"People who have guns in Westchester County are registered through the county clerk's office and the court system and this requires state registration," Galef explained. "We're going to have to make sure they both say the same thing so I think there will be an amendment coming in the next few weeks"

However District 40 State Sen. Greg Ball (R, C – Patterson), who represents the city as part of his district, has been an outspoken critic of the new law.

"While much in this bill, as far as stiffer penalties for real criminals and help on the mental health front is good, the last-minute push, in the middle of the night, without critical public input from sportsmen and taxpayers was outrageous and forced members to vote on a bill they had not read."

Ball was the sponsor of a piece of legislation that was attached to the bill that was passed that makes it illegal to publicly release the names and addresses of gun owners. However Ball voted against the bill itself.

“While I’m glad we won on many fronts, including my permit privacy legislation against The Journal News, I simply cannot support a bill that turns law-abiding citizens into criminals by creating an entire new category of illegal firearms out of currently legal rifles and shotguns,” Ball said Tuesday.

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