Sheriff Has Right Stand On Gun Bill

Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace took the high road when asked of his opinion of New York’s controversial SAFE Act law regarding assault weapons and magazines.

Many police agencies across the state already have condemned the law without getting all the details. Nationally, 127 sheriffs already said they were not supportive of similar legislation being considered by President Barack Obama.

While constituents in those states and in this region may enjoy the quick sound bites and one-liners, it’s troublesome to think those in law enforcement made hasty judgment of a law before the ink is dry. And while we believe the process in which the bill was adopted was hasty itself, there is no good in taking such a critical stance so early on.

Gerace said in the days after New York passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act he needed time to vet the information before he could provide insight. What a novel concept. And a genuine one at that. The sheriff did take a stand against high-powered assault rifles, noting his department cannot be “outgunned” by criminals. That’s a fair statement to make, and one that is likely uniform across the nation.

“I am obviously a strong supporter of the Constitution and the Second Amendment, and part of that is people should have the right to bear arms,” Gerace said. “But I have a serious problem about high-capacity, high-powered assault rifles.”

Gerace recently got back from Albany as members of the state Sheriff’s Association met for their semi-annual gathering. After three days of meetings, the Sheriff’s Association sent Gov. Andrew Cuomo a four-page summary of the law – including what they liked and didn’t like.

Sheriffs agree to harsher penalties for crimes involving illegal guns; the killing of a first responder would become an automatic first-degree murder charge.

But the Sheriff’s Association isn’t sold on the definition of an assault weapon, claiming it’s too broad and would punish responsible gun owners. The sheriffs also believe limiting the number of bullets in a magazine will do little to stop criminals.

By taking the time to understand the law, sheriffs across the state took a uniform stance. No quick reactions and no one-liners with hollow implications.

So, it’s only natural we commend Gerace for taking the right stance at the right time.