One of the strictest gun control laws in the nation decided an election for county sheriff in upstate New York, with a sheriff who is opposed to it winning.
Political observers say that Timothy B. Howard was reelected sheriff of Erie County near Buffalo because of his opposition to the so-called SAFE Act.
“I won’t enforce it,” Howard said of the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (popularly called the “SAFE ACT) passed by the New York state legislature and signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
It helped Howard, a Republican, become only one of three people elected to a fourth term as Erie County sheriff since the county was created in 1821.
“The SAFE Act was a major issue in this election,” political consultant Carl J. Calabrese told The Buffalo News. “A lot of people in Erie County, both Republicans and Democrats, are hunters, gun owners and shooters. These are motivated people who get out and vote. In a low-turnout election like this one, it can make all the difference.”
SAFE ACT causes Democrats to Vote Republican
The SAFE Act is extremely unpopular in rural Eire County and it even deeply divided Democrats. Reporters noted that there were anti-SAFE Act signs all over the county in the weeks leading up to the election.
Howard faced both a Democratic opponent and an anti-gun control liberal who was seeking Democratic votes by running on the Law and Order Party ticket.
“When he took that position, it gave him a wedge into Democrats who would not normally vote for a Republican,” Calabrese said of Howard. “A lot of Democrats are blue-collar people, union people, hunters and gun owners.”
Even though it is rural, Erie County is hardly a small place. The Erie County Sheriff’s Department has more than 1,000 employees and a budget of $118 million a year.
The SAFE Act Explained
So what exactly is the SAFE Act and why are some New Yorkers so upset about it? SAFE has strong support from Andrew Cuomo (son of Mario).
The provisions of the SAFE ACT include:
- Possession of a gun with a magazine that contains more than 10 rounds is now a felony in New York State.
- People will be required to undergo background checks when they purchase ammunition in New York State beginning Jan. 15, 2014.
- Dealers will have to report all ammunition sales and the amount of ammo sold to the state.
- New York residents that purchase ammunition online will have to pick it up from a licensed dealer rather than have it delivered to their home.
- Makes it illegal not to report the theft of a gun to law enforcement in New York.
- Requires background checks for all gun sales including weapons sold by private individuals. Members of the immediate family are exempt.
- Enables the state Department of Criminal Justice Services to seize guns from persons declared “mentally ill.”
- Requires mental health professionals to report gun ownership by patients to the Department of Criminal Justice Services.
- Makes it illegal to sell “assault weapons” on the internet in New York State.
- Requires the state to keep information it collects about gun owners confidential.
- Bans the sale of what Cuomo calls “assault weapons” in New York State. Those who bought such weapons before Jan. 15, 2013 can keep them but can only sell the guns out of state.
- Defines any semiautomatic rifle with a detachable magazine as an assault weapon.
- Defines some pistols as assault weapons.
- Defines many semiautomatic shotguns as assault weapons.
With Howard’s re-election, it looks there may be more opposition to gun control than even supporters thought.