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Many showed up to voice their opinion at the Town of Tusten Town Board public hearing regarding a resolution to oppose the NY SAFE Act, the new statewide gun law that puts limits on the sale of assault weapons and the size of magazine clips. Both sides were there. Of the 10 residents who spoke during the hearing, seven were for passing the resolution and three were against.
While the discussion wasn’t one-sided, there was an abundance of NRA bumper stickers adorning cars in the parking lot and many of those attending the public meeting who did not speak were wearing hunting clothing to show their support for the resolution.
Superintendent Glenn Swendsen began the hearing by holding up a map of New York with all the counties that oppose the act; it was a majority. He said in New York “there were 774 murders in 2011. Now, they want to ban assault rifles because they are to blame. There were only five incidents where rifles were used.”
Others spoke about the law taking away their rights, such as Narrowsburg resident Joseph Kandrot who said, “Some of our elected officials have forgotten or lost their way. Their job is to protect the Constitution and the Second Amendment and not to pick it apart, and not to tell me what to eat, drink or carry.”
Jim Hanson, president of Beaver Brook Rod and Gun Club, said of the act that “it doesn’t address the problem of people who are mentally ill and violent. Taking good God-fearing citizens’ rights away is not going to prevent those kinds of tragedies.”
Resident Star Hesse, who did not want the resolution to pass, quoted from the 2008 Supreme Court decision that the Second Amendment is not unlimited, and it is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever for whatsoever purpose.” She said there have been limitations placed on other amendments and rights. Referring to the First Amendment, she said, “You can’t shout fire in a crowded room if there is none.”
Artist and Narrowsburg resident Francis Cape also spoke about limitations on other rights, saying just because a car can go up to 120 mph doesn’t mean you would drive that fast. He said there is a correlation between the speed of a car and fatalities, and questioned paragraph eight in the resolution that states “there is no documented correlation between gun control measures and crime reduction,” to which he said, “it conceals the awful truth.”
During the regular board meeting, the board members made statements about the resolution.
Supervisor Carol Ropke Wingert said, “The people who crafted this law have no clue what they’re talking about…. They’ve made criminals of good upstanding citizens.”
Councilman Tony Ritter mentioned the importance of holding a public hearing, as was happening that night, as opposed to the NY SAFE Act that was passed without one. He said, “One of the principles that I ran on in 2011 for the position of councilman for the Town of Tusten was the necessity of transparent government.” He went on to say, “This law was hurried and flawed due to emotionally charged events that have recently occurred.”
After it was put to a vote by the board, the resolution was passed unanimously. Similar resolutions have already been passed in other towns in the areas such as Thompson, Cochecton, and Callicoon, Liberty and Deer Park.
Councilman Ned Lang said, “It was great seeing everybody coming out and participating in the democratic process and voicing their opinions.”
In other business, summer events were discussed. RiverFest will be held on July 28 and Pig Mountain will be held on August 24. The fourth of July fireworks will be shot off from the land on Irish Hill, where the Christmas star is located. The next town meeting will be Tuesday, April 9 at 7 p.m.