Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — In the weeks following passage of the New York state SAFE Act, described as the most stringent gun control law in the country by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, municipalities around the state were flooded with calls to determine what the law would mean for gun owners.
One of the more pressing concerns in North Tonawanda and across Niagara County, officials said, was over an opt-out option for pistol owners looking for a public records exemption.
The county now has 28,615 residents who own pistols, and that number is growing everyday, according to Wendy Roberson, deputy clerk of Niagara County, who said her office has barely been able to keep up since the law passed on Jan. 15.
“We have received hundreds and hundreds of calls, e-mails and faxes,” she said. “In the 17 years that I’ve been here I have never seen any response like this from the public, particularly as it pertains to the opt out forms.”
While staff members at the clerk’s office have been shifted to the county’s pistol permit department to assist with the long lines and months of backed-up requests, local municipalities are also feeling the crunch as well. They’re dealing with worries raised over stronger regulation over ammunition, statewide recertification of handguns and assault rifles and general questions about the law, officially called the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013.
North Tonawanda clerk-treasurer Scott Kiedrowski said he too has received an influx of calls and questions from the public, and from those looking to procure the proper forms to have their name excluded from public record before a May 15 deadline.
“We got lots of calls from residents who were just plain inquisitive as to what their rights were,” he said.”A lot of people are concerned about the Second Amendment.”
Kiedrowski said after receiving at least 50 calls over a month, he consulted with the county clerks office and began offering the forms both in city hall and on the North Tonawanda city website.
“I put out 100 forms last week and they’re all gone already,” Kiedrowski said.
And there appears to be no let-up in the number of residents either curious or enraged about the law, Roberson said, while she’s heard similar stories from other municipalities and sheriff’s departments across the state about the public response.
Kiedrowski said offering to assist the county with the process will hopefully ease some of the congestions seen there, while he’s placed three forms on the clerk-treasurer’s webpage, including directions on how to fill out the forms by hand, on a computer and how to print them out. He also urged residents to take their time in completing the process as any errors would nullify the request for the exemption.
All forms need to be submitted to the Niagara County Clerk, PO BOX 461, Lockport, NY 14095. The forms can also be found at northtonawanda.org or in the clerk’s office on at 216 Payne Ave.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.