Dear Governor Cuomo,
I appreciate your conversations last week with Geddes town Supervisor Manny Falcone. They showed graciousness and a good spirit.
Though Supervisor Falcone has been a vocal opponent of your SAFE Act, the two of you were able to do the business of the people without allowing that to be a distraction. You did not hesitate to locate a multi-million dollar amphitheater in his town, and he did not use the occasion of your visit to attack the SAFE Act.
You each put this issue aside, and treated one another with collegial respect.
And in a follow-up phone conversation, you invited him to bring two or three other SAFE Act opponents to your office in Albany to talk about the law.
To the best of my knowledge, that is the first time you have done that, and it is a kind and generous gesture.
I’d like to thank you for it, and I’d like to make a suggestion for something you may wish to discuss in that meeting, or consider in your own deliberations.
Ideally, as a SAFE Act opponent myself, I’d like to see the entire thing go away. As a person who takes the Second Amendment seriously and personally, I consider the law offensive in every part. To me, it makes no sense whatsoever, and is hostile to my culture and my liberty.
But I recognize some realities.
We opponents have no hope of legislative relief. Your party has a complete and unbreakable hold on the politics of our state, and my party – in its most influential members – was also supportive of the SAFE Act. There is no way Albany is going to help us.
Further, we opponents have almost no hope of judicial relief. Our hand-picked judge in Buffalo essentially gutted our position. Recourse to the far-more-liberal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals is perfunctory but pointless. And it is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court would either take our case or side with us if it did take our case.
So it is unlikely the courts are going to help us.
Which leaves a great many upstate people angry and exasperated. We have been backed into a corner. It would be hard to overstate the upset, or clearly communicate the rage. While the SAFE Act may make sense to you, and people where you are from, it is a direct and personal attack to me, and the people where I’m from.
Our prospects are hopeless.
They will be manipulated for political gain by any number of candidates, but in the end, none of them can offer us any sort of relief.
You alone have the power to loosen this saddle a bit, and make this burden easier to bear. Only you can dial back the disenfranchising alienation your law has spread across upstate.
Clearly, an angry recitation of grievances and arguments of constitutionality are not going to work in the context of your meeting with Supervisor Falcone and his associates. Things that are properly shouted on the lawn of the state Capitol don’t exactly fit in the quiet of the offices inside. The arguments of the public square are not often persuasive in the halls of power.
You know how we feel. You know how intensely we feel. We know where you stand. Let’s stipulate on our disagreement.
But let’s talk about wiggle room.
No matter how illogical we find your view on our assault rifles and magazines, it’s not likely you would willingly retreat on those issues.
So let’s talk about ammunition purchases.
Your law requires every bullet we buy to be approved and recorded by the Division of State Police. The background checks and the record keeping will dramatically change the way ammunition is purchased in New York State.
We cannot look at this effort as intended to do anything other than make it difficult or impossible to legally buy ammunition. Further, we fear it is intended to put gun shops and others out of the ammunition business and, by depriving them of that income, put them out of business altogether.
But most troublingly, the requirement seems specifically targeted at making a record of what firearms we own, and tracking how much ammunition we have for those firearms. We find that intrusive and sinister.
If implemented, this part of the SAFE Act will disarm some by leaving them unable to get ammunition, and it will drive others to traffic ammunition from out of state, to avoid the expense, delay and intrusion of your scheme.
If I was in your meeting with Supervisor Falcone, I would ask you to passively nullify this aspect of the SAFE Act. I would ask you to, as a gesture of kindness and understanding, let it die aborning.
This wouldn’t require any repudiation of the act on your part, it wouldn’t require any reopening of the legislation or even an acknowledgment that anything had happened.
But, as Dr. Shah has taught us, inaction is sometimes action.
The ammunition aspect of the SAFE Act requires the Division of State Police to establish a system that would provide an instant background check. This same system, along with record keeping by ammunition dealers, would record and track who purchases what ammunition.
Building such a system, and keeping it current, will require significant effort and expense. It’s far more complex than just tapping into existing state or federal systems. All of a sudden, in order to track who buys how many deer slugs of what gauge, you’ve got to make your own database that is constantly updated on all the felons, dishonorably dischargeds, wife beaters and crazy people in America.
But it’s expensive and hard.
And maybe in a quiet meeting in your office, you could come to the conclusion that it’s unnecessary.
You needn’t say so out loud.
But the effort by the State Police to create such a system could quietly shift into neutral. The thoroughness of your Health Department in the review of fracking could be replicated in the thoroughness of your State Police in crafting this background check system.
If we delay the background-check system, we delay the implementation of the ammunition law. Perhaps you could see fit to make the delay indefinite.
That’s what I would say if I was in the meeting.
You are not going to change your mind on the SAFE Act, and it is unrealistic of us to think that you will. No amount of Second Amendment discussion is going to get you to budge. You’ve got your view and we’ve got ours, and we’ve both amply demonstrated that we find the other’s view disgusting.
But there are millions of New Yorkers who are passionately aggrieved at their governor and their state. And as their governor, though you are in disagreement with them, you need not be in conflict with them.
You can, in the same magnanimous spirit you demonstrated with Supervisor Falcone, throw them a bone. You can do it as an act of compassion or generosity, as a campaign-year gesture, or simply as a recognition that in your intensely bifurcated state there is room for everybody.
You could unofficially inactivate the ammunition provision and still have the toughest gun laws in America.
But you would save the livelihoods of many ammunition dealers, you would ease the way for millions of law-abiding gun owners, and you could give quarter in the SAFE Act fight.
It would be generous and big of you.
And if I were in that room with you, it is what I would politely request.
Thank you for your time and consideration, and may God bless you in your important work.