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Herkimer Shooting: Calls NY SAFE Act Into Question

Two months after the passing of the NYS SAFE Act, conflict over the new law continues to rage. The state continues to uphold its view that the law will make the state a safer place to live and keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. Opponents, on the other hand, call the law an attack on their Second Amendment rights and say it will in fact make the state a more dangerous place. For the SAFE Act to continue as law, it will need to withstand growing criticisms.

Both public outcry and political backlash against the SAFE Act continue to mount. As of this writing, 48 of 62 New York counties have passed resolutions to repeal the SAFE Act. Four other counties will be holding a vote in the coming days. Additionally 43 local municipalities, 13 Law Enforcement offices, along with the Association of Erie County Governments, New York State Association of County Clerks, NY Association of Counties, and NYS Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors have called for the laws repeal.

Protest against the SAFE Act has led to multiple rallies across the state. From hundreds of people attending the municipal and county resolution votes, to thousands in the largest rallies from Buffalo to Albany. Five lawsuits are also ongoing against the Constitutionality of the new law, with the largest having over 1,200 plaintiffs. In response to the outcry, efforts to repeal the SAFE Act are currently underway in the NYS Legislature. Called the Second Amendment Protection Act and sponsored by state Sen. Kathy Marchione, the bill if made law would repeal most of the SAFE Act and force the state to redraft its proposal.

There are many concerns regarding the SAFE Act. From Constitutional infringement arguments, to questions whether it violates a mental health patients right to privacy. Jim Tresmond a lawyer from one of the lawsuits, is framing the Constitutional argument. County clerks have called the SAFE Act and unfunded mandate which places a financial burden on the individual counties and exempts the state from paying for its new provisions. While the Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs is speaking out against the mental health portion of the law, saying it discourages people from seeking treatment.

Beyond that Gov. Cuomo has managed to raise concerns he is undermining his our law. On February 14th the House of Representatives Oversight Committee released a report titled “Billions of Federal Tax Dollars Misspent on New York's Medicaid Program”. The conclusion from the report is that over the past 20 years NYS has over billed the Federal government for $15 billion dollars in Medicaid. This has led Gov. Cuomo to call for a $500 million dollar cut to the state’s Medicaid program and a change to the mental health prescription program.

The Medicaid cuts would directly affect a practitioner’s ability to seek reimbursement for services. This has led to a concern that physicians may not be as likely to accept new low income patients seeking mental health services. Changes to the laws governing the prescription program would remove a physician’s ability to provide anti-psychotic medications and instead give final authority to a non-clinician mental health plan manager. There is a fear amongst mental health providers that such a move would increase risk to their patients by placing them on cheaper anti-psychotics instead of those the physicians prescribes.

Yet beyond the Constitutional questions, funding issues and mental health concerns; tragedy may have become the chief opponents to the SAFE Act. On March 13, the same day most of the provisions of the SAFE Act went into effect, NYS suffered its first mass shooting under the new law. Kurt Meyers, 64, of Mohawk, N.Y., set fire to his apartment and then began a shooting rampage.

Taking his shotgun and driving to John’s Barber Shop, Meyers killed two men and critically wounded another two. He the proceeded to Gaffey’s Fast Lube killing two more men including NYS Correctional Officer Michael Renshaw. Barricading himself inside an abandoned bar, Meyers opened fire on police and the FBI at 1:30 p.m. The standoff continued for almost 19 hours before State and FBI tactical teams forced entry. Meyers was killed by the officers in a shootout, but not before taking the life of the brave little FBI K-9 who led the way.

Meyers, described as a loner who kept to himself by neighbors, committed his heinous acts with a shotgun legal under the provisions of the SAFE Act. This act has made the case for many New Yorkers that the SAFE Act will do nothing to prevent mass shootings by the deranged. Coupled with the governors suggested mental health program cuts, the question rings ever louder; does the SAFE Act make anyone safe?

Bonus: FBI agent carrying an assault rifle mounts his sights backwards, making his weapon unsafe for use.

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