Assemblyman Dan Stec wants the state to repeal its new gun law and replace it with measures that don't infringe on Second Amendment rights.
The Republican from Queensbury has been critical of the state Legislature's quick passage of New York's Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, and last week he launched an online petition that pushes for the law's repeal. The petition has since racked up more than 400 signatures.
Stec said in a prepared statement that the law has some good elements, including increased penalties for illegal firearm use and measures aimed at protecting first responders, but in general, it "severely restricts" constitutional rights and infringes upon "responsible, law-abiding gun owners."
In an interview with the Enterprise Tuesday, Stec said the feedback he's received from his constituents has been almost unanimous in its opposition to the SAFE Act, "to the point where it's surprising," he said.
"I certainly understand, with a dynamic like this, I'm more likely to hear from people that are upset with the action as opposed to maybe a large number of people that like the action. The nature of something like this is, you're going to hear from people that are upset with an outcome as opposed to those that are pleased with an outcome."
Stec said that while most of the people he's heard from are upset with the law's content, the overwhelming majority are more unnerved by the way the legislation was enacted. The bill sped through the state Legislature and was signed into law without any public hearings or an opportunity for gun owners or gun control advocates to review it.
"This is not a trivial matter," Stec said. "It's a bill of right. ... It's not just the gun advocates who are contacting me; it's also a large number of people who are concerned with good government."
If the law was repealed, Stec said he'd support an approach similar to the one U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, has been advocating for in Washington. Owens has called for an incremental, measured approach that begins with passing legislation that lawmakers agree on - like expanded background checks for gun buyers - and moving cautiously into areas of greater controversy, like bans on assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines. Owens and Stec both disagree with such bans.
Stec said he favors a methodical approach to gun control but understands why Cuomo packaged his measures together in one omnibus bill.
"This is how things get done," he said. "When you package things in an all-or-none way, that's politically, sometimes, a way to get yes votes where you wouldn't otherwise get yes votes."
The Enterprise posted a link to a blog about Stec's petition to Twitter on Tuesday, prompting a critical reply from Will Doolittle, an editor at the Glens Falls Post-Star. The newspaper has followed Stec's career closely, beginning when he worked as a councilman in the town of Queensbury.
"Dan Stec was elected to be the guy who acts, not the one who circulates petitions," he tweeted. "Signatures accomplish nothing."
Stec disagreed with Doolittle.
"I'm interacting with my constituents," the assemblyman said. "I am responding to my constituents. They are upset, and they want to communicate that, and they're looking for a venue to communicate that."
State Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, said a similar petition is being circulated in the Senate, where the SAFE Act only had 18 "no" votes. Little's was one of those.
"It would be very difficult to do any kind of full repeal," she said. "There are certainly some things in that bill that I thought were good and I could've voted for in a stand-alone bill.
"I do think that we will hopefully be taking a second look at it, and see where we can make it less onerous on the legal gun owners, and yet continue to try to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, out of the hands of people that are emotionally upset or have mental problems or mental issues and could not deal with that."
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.