October 23, 2021

Solon could be first to defy gun laws

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If the Solon Town Board passes a proposed gun rights resolution, the town could become the first municipality in New York to refuse to comply with any future state gun control measures.

While the resolution would also express disagreement with New York’s SAFE Act and red flag law, it would accept them as established law and abide by their enforcement.

“We will abide by the state’s laws that they have set now for gun rights,” said board member Brian Guernsey at the board’s meeting earlier this week. “But if they try any overreach … we’re not going to abide by that.”

“The laws that we have in place are in place. Nobody’s arguing that fact,” said Supervisor Steve Furlin. “But what we’re saying is no more.”

Furlin admits, however, the resolution will not likely have much immediate effect because the town does not have police, and law enforcement decisions are handled by state police and the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Mark Helms said he would need to read the proposed resolution before commenting on it.

“I guess I’d have to look at it and see what it is,” he said. But he noted that the enforcement of state laws isn’t something he views as optional.

“As a sheriff, I don’t get to pick and choose which laws that I’ll enforce,” Helms said. “We take an oath to uphold the laws.”

“We don’t have a police force,” said Don Armstrong, the town’s attorney. “This is a policy statement.”

The resolution, he said, “is not going to tie the hands of the sheriff’s office.”

If the county, however, were to pass a similar resolution, he said, “it might be a different story.”

Furlin and Guernsey said they would like Solon to provide a model for other towns to follow.

“We hope that people look at what we’ve done, and the next town does it, and the next town does it, and the next town does it,” Furlin said. “If Solon has to lead the way, then so be it.”

Furlin said the resolution will likely be presented for discussion at a public forum before the board’s Feb. 17 meeting, but this has yet to be scheduled. The board could vote on the resolution that night, he said.

Armstrong is reviewing a draft of the proposal, written by Guernsey with advice from Furlin.

The proposed resolution, if passed in the form described, would be the most extreme statement in New York of municipal opposition to state gun control measures.

Two other municipalities — Wyoming County and the town of Grand Island — adopted resolutions opposing state gun laws in January 2019, but both of these measures stop short of calling for the non-enforcement of state laws.

“We do believe that this goes above and beyond what others have done,” Furlin said.

More than 400 municipalities in 20 states have passed measures opposing state or federal guns laws, according to The Trace, a nonprofit news group that focuses on gun issues. In the span of two months last year, Virginia saw more 120 towns, cities, and counties pass such measures. Also, dozens of county sheriffs in New Mexico, Washington, Nevada, Oregon, and Illinois have vowed not to enforce certain gun laws.