New Paltz Debates Controversial New York SAFE Act


The current hot button issue of gun control has spurred local government to take action.

According to the New York State website, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation called the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (NY SAFE ACT) on Jan. 15, 2013. The Act gives New York the most comprehensive gun laws in the nation.

The webpage cites that these laws were put in place to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous mental health patients and to ban high capacity magazines and assault weapons. However, this bill does not affect rifles and shotguns used by traditional sportsmen and hunters.

A provision to this bill was enacted, allowing state residents to keep their status as pistol permit holders out of the public eye. This was added to the act in response to objections over The Journal News, a Westchester County newspaper, publishing a map showing the addresses of all the gun permit holders in its readership area, according to The Daily Freeman. The map was released following the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Ulster County Clerk Nina Postupack said that since the first day of filing, the office has filed 2,120 opt-out forms from gun permit holders wishing to keep their information private.

“The opt-out form has added additional work to our office,” Postupack said. “It is a labor-intensive process, but it is necessary to ensure that individuals who wish to have their name and address sealed are protected.”

According to Postupack, each form received must be processed, marked accordingly and then filed. Although she files pistol permits in Ulster County, the application processing is done through the Sheriff’s Department.

“They [the Sheriff’s Department] have felt the impact of the SAFE Act more so than our office,” Postupack said.

SUNY New Paltz Chief of Police David Dugatkin said the SAFE Act has not affected any campus security policies.

“There are no changes planned in University Police operations in regards to the SAFE Act and pistol permit holders’ public information,” Dugatkin said. “SUNY officers and police officers, acting in an official capacity, are allowed to continue to carry their weapons on campus.”

Dugatkin said the police officers on campus are trained and certified to carry semi-automatic handguns, shotguns and patrol rifles along with several less lethal options.

Even though campus security remains the same, students have reacted strongly to the act.

Christopher Carlson, a fourth-year history major, critiqued the SAFE Act from a conservative point of view.

“Conservatives believe that we have the protected right to bear arms, not only to fish and hunt, but to, most importantly, retain the dignity of self-defense,” Carlson said.

Although he understands the necessity of background checks for gun owners, he opposes the banishment of military grade weapons because he believes an armed populace is the only natural check on government tyranny.

“The theory goes, if the government can have it, the people can have it too, because once a government no longer fears its people, they will not fear doing harm to those people,” he said.

Carlson said that if the government wants to address the rise in violent crime, they should concentrate on “inner city decay” and the obsolete mental health system in the country.

He is not the only student who feels this way. Students for the Advancement of the Second Amendment President Connor Holmes sees the act as an intrusion on his constitutional rights.

“I think it’s 100 percent unconstitutional,” Holmes said. “It is beyond me why anyone would think this would help. Criminals don’t much care about legal or illegal, they will have them anyway.”

The organization plans to send letters to lawmakers about this topic, and are organizing a demonstration and possibly a debate.

“We are trying to present the club as one of less extreme opinions,” Holmes said. “We are not trying to start a junior NRA, we want to be non-partisan and open. Most of all, we support responsible gun ownership for the people of this nation.”

Holmes said the new privacy provision may be the only good to come out of the SAFE Act because he believes it was inappropriate to publicly release the names of people exercising their constitutional rights.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s an invasion of privacy,” he said.