(WBEN) With a lot of his colleagues meeting on the issue in Albany, Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard is speaking out on the state's new gun laws.In a wide ranging interview with WBEN, and in meetings with local gun rights advocates Thursday night, Howard outlined his opposition to the law, and how the fears of gun confiscation it brings may make the job of law enforcement harder.
SHERIFF TIM HOWARD:
"Both the state and the federal bill are proof of what the gun rights people have been saying all along: that registration is a precursor to confiscation. And that once we get on the slippery slope and let the government tinker with the second amendment, what comes next?"
"Why don't we have a law that everyone has to have an (alcohol) interlock ignition device on their car? ... Why don't we have a law that says car manufacturers can't produce a car that drives above the speed limit? We know those are violations of civil liberties. And yet there are more protections to gun ownership than there is to vehicle ownership"
"I'm waiting for someone to come out and do the commercial (that shows a criminal saying) ' It's now illegal tohave a 10 round magazine in my gun.' and they would take out the magazine and say ' Now I only have 7'. but then open up the rest of his jacket and say ' So now I carry 2 guns'."
His comments come as the New York State Sheriff's Association convenes annual meetings in Albany, with discussion of- and mostly opposition to- the new restrictions on what constitutes an illegal gun. The association is urging Gov. Cuomo to "revisit" portions of the law, according to Gannett Newspapers Albany bureau.
“This law has some issues pertaining to the Second Amendment,” said Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith, quoted in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
“I’m deeply concerned in haste to pass the law, they may have missed the point on some of the mental-health issues and are dealing with some ammunition and gun issues and law-enforcement issues, ” Smith said.
Smith's comments in Albany echo ones that Howard shared with a gun rights group in the Buffalo area Thursday night, and earlier that day with WBEN.
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Howard says the rules infringe on legal rights, without restricting criminals or making society safer.
"I believe haste makes waste. We are wasting a lot of energies on this and should have had the opportunity to talk of this before it was passed, and most significantly the lack of any exemption for law enforcement in the bill, " Howard says.
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The new law reduces the maximum legal magazine size from 10 bullets to seven. It redefines assault weapons to include semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines that have one military-style feature such as a pistol grip, flash suppressor or bayonet mount, instead of two.
Owners of an estimated 1 million formerly legal guns can keep them but are required to register them with state police within a year.
The legislation was not a complete surprise to New York's estimated 4.75 million gun owners. Cuomo had promised tighter gun laws following the December slayings of 20 children and six educators at a Connecticut elementary school. Authorities said the gunman used a military-style semiautomatic rifle and 30-round magazines.
Howard tells WBEN that the law could be the first step toward having confiscation of guns that are deemed illegal, and he says that fear will put his fellow officers at risk, if gun owners begin to see the role of law enforcement differently- as one who could take their firearms.
"Some individual is going to think exactly that when some law enforcement officer comes up to the door... and they are going to react to that (fear) and it's going to be a problem," he says
Howard says the bill could face a federal court challenge, in light of recent rulings in Chicago involving interstate commerce. And he also said of legislators like Senator Mark Grisanti, who was against earlier tougher gun measures but voted in favor of this one, are not winning any supporters.
"To my mind that says they tried to take away your arm and I only took away your hand. And I'm fearful that even with some changes, they are going to take away a finger."