The Cortlandville Town Board voted Wednesday to ban firearms on town-owned properties — with the exception of law enforcement personnel — following a hearing at which residents differed on whether the public would be more or less safe if the law was adopted.
The 4-1 vote came after a public hearing at which most of the five residents commented about the law that affects 400 to 600 acres owned by the town, including town hall and parks.
“People will harm someone, if they want to,” said Paul Koekebacker, 72, who retired in 2004 as a state police senior investigator. “You better be looking to protect yourselves as much as you can.”
Kathleen Fitzgerald said she believes people have the right to bear arms, but she worries about guns being available at public facilities.
“Arming people at a stupid baseball game is ridiculous,” she said.
Supervisor Thomas Williams cast the only vote in opposition after a last-minute change in the law that would give only the town board the authority to grant exceptions to the law.
The original version would have allowed the board or the supervisor to make those decisions.
Williams said he believed the final version, proposed by board member Doug Whithey, would be too slow and cumbersome if a decision was needed quickly.
He cited a hypothetical example of a senator stopping unexpectedly or with little notice in the town. It would take three days to schedule a board vote to make an exception to the law for the senator’s security detail, Williams said.
“I am not opposed to people owning guns,” Withey said. “I don’t want them bringing guns into town hall.”
Town Attorney John DelVecchio said similar laws are in effect in several other Central New York municipalities, including Dewitt and Manlius.
“It’s on the books in many, many places,” he said.
Williams, a retired state trooper, said he believes it would be safer to ban firearms from town properties, noting such restrictions are in place at airports, courthouses and other locations.