A crowd of gun owners took aim Thursday at a Suffolk legislative proposal to impose rules for storing firearms safely, saying the measure was unneeded, unconstitutional and would leave families defenseless against violent home invasions.
“How are you going to go upstairs, run to your safe, open it up, unlock the gun and load it?” Lindenhurst resident Carol Ann Bowker asked. “How does this law protect us from criminals? How are we going to protect ourselves?”
The criticisms were leveled in the first public airing of the bill before the legislature’s public safety committee. The committee tabled the bill, sponsored by Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), because a formal public hearing on it is scheduled for next Wednesday at the meeting of the full legislature in Hauppauge.
The proposed local law states that no one with a firearm shall leave it out of his or her immediate possession or control without either locking it in “an appropriate safe storage depository” or rendering it incapable of being fired by using a safety locking device.
A first violation could mean a fine of up to $250 or 15 days in jail; a second would be a misdemeanor with up to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.
In all, 30 opponents — ranging from sportsmen’s club officials and gun instructors to suburban mothers — denounced the proposal. They said there are no local statistics showing any problem with gun security in homes, and argued there’s no way to enforce the law without doing house-to-house searches. No one spoke in favor of the bill.
Bowker said federal courts already have ruled that such laws are unconstitutional, and she said that the proposal would make it impossible for people to protect themselves from an attack.
Harold Moskowitz of Northport questioned the legality of the bill.
“The Supreme Court has recognized . . . the right to self-defense in life-threatening situations,” he said. “This bill undermines that right by requiring valuable time for unsecuring the defensive weapon.”
Other critics were more succinct.
“It’s stupid — colossally stupid,” said Gary Reiber of Lindenhurst.
Many speakers argued the county would accomplish the same goals by requiring gun safety education for children.
Several critics attacked Gregory, saying the proposal was a ploy to promote his current campaign for Congress against longtime Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).
“There is no crisis, there is no threat,” said Sherman Kearns of Ridge. “This is just political grandstanding in an election year.”
Gregory was present at the meeting but did not speak.
Later, he defended his proposal, and said he was open to the possibility of making amendments Gregory said he is “not anti-gun,” only looking to protect children and others from preventable shooting deaths and making sure weapons of licensed gun owners don’t get into the wrong hands.
“To me, it’s just common sense,” he said.