To the Citizens of Warren County:
The sheriffs of New York are not of one mind regarding the recently enacted NY SAFE Act. Most sheriffs support some of the provisions of the Act while questioning the wisdom or the efficacy of some of the others. I am confident that all sheriffs will enforce the duly enacted laws of New York, as required by their oath of office.
It is my view that anytime government decides it is necessary or desirable to meddle with a constitutional right that it should only be done with caution and with great respect for the constitutional boundaries. And it should only be done if the benefit to be gained is so great and certain that it far outweighs the damage done by the constriction of individual liberty. While some of the provisions of this bill have surface appeal, it is far from certain that many of them will have any significant effect in reducing gun violence, which is the presumed goal of all of us. Unfortunately the process used in adoption of this Act did not permit the mature development of the arguments on either side of the debate, and thus many of the stakeholders in this important issue are left feeling oppressed by their government.
I certainly understand the politics of the governor’s wish to expedite adoption of this, for him, high priority program and I understand his use of a compliant Legislature to accomplish that. The governor did his job and presented the Legislature with his proposal for dealing with a serious problem. What I do not understand is the Legislature’s willful abandonment of the regular legislative process to rush through a very complicated and controversial bill without giving even the members of the Legislature, much less the citizenry, time to analyze and respond to the proposal. Usually passing a law is a long and laborious process, often painfully so, but for a reason. When citizen’s life or liberty is to be affected by a proposed law, those citizens should have the opportunity to make their views known to their legislators. Even obviously meritorious and non-controversial proposals often languish in the Legislature for years because, the legislators say, it is necessary to gather input from all affected parties. As frustrating as that may be for some, out of such a deliberative process often come amendments and improvements to the proposal. Did the Legislature not think that any of the 19.5 million New Yorkers might have something of value to contribute to the debate over solutions to gun violence and the proposals in this legislation?
In my capacity as the elected sheriff of Warren County, I take the time to express these concerns now because many other measures on many other topics of importance to law enforcement and to our citizens in general will arise in the coming year. We will be disappointed and alarmed if this steamroller approach to important legislation becomes the norm.
Nathan H. York
Warren County Sheriff