MAYVILLE - Retired police officers have been given exemptions to New York state's strict gun-control law.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month signed an amendment to the NY SAFE Act that will allow retired officers with more than 10 years of service to carry large-capacity magazines and guns currently banned by law. The exemptions came following concerns raised by former officers, many of whom continue to own their service weapons.
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace said he supported the exemptions, and noted that reducing rounds in a magazine will not curb gun violence.
"I don't believe reducing rounds will have any viable safety impact," Gerace said. "You have highly trained, highly skilled people who have served many years as an officer. It makes total sense for them to have these things."
John Runkle, a retired Chautauqua County sheriff's deputy with 28 years of service, said he, too, supported the exemptions to the SAFE Act. The Stockton resident and current county legislator was a lieutenant with the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force before his retirement in 2009.
"I agree with the exemptions," Runkle said, "but in my honest opinion, this SAFE Act was never fully explored and should have never been put into law."
"There has been more effort into controlling our gun rights than taking care of the welfare problem we have in the state, which is costing taxpayers millions of dollars," he said.
The bill passed the state Assembly in May, but was not taken up by the Senate until recently. State Sen. Cathy Young, R-C-I Olean, was one of 14 lawmakers to vote against the bill in the Senate.
"I have nothing but the deepest admiration for our law enforcement," Young said on the Senate floor. "I always support them, and I support their ability to regain some of their Second Amendment rights.
"But the reason I'm voting no on this particular piece of legislation is because there should be a full repeal of the SAFE Act, and until we have everyone who is a law abiding citizen regain their Constitutional rights, I can't support this."
Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-I Chautauqua County, voted in favor of the exemptions earlier this summer.
Qualified retired law enforcement officers will be allowed to possess large-capacity ammunition and weapons issued or purchased during the course of their service.