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Suffolk gun proposal draws opposition; sponsor seeks compromise

Presiding Officer Duwayne Gregory speaks as members of

Presiding Officer Duwayne Gregory speaks as members of the Suffolk County Legislature attend an annual organizational meeting inside the Rose Y. Caracappa Auditorium at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge on Jan. 5, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

Suffolk presiding officer DuWayne Gregory promised Thursday he would withdraw a controversial bill to impose requirements on how gun owners store firearms if he can’t reach a compromise with opponents.

More than 30 gun owners spoke against the bill at the County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee, saying the proposed law was unconstitutional and would make it harder to protect their homes. A number also invoked the results of last week’s election of Republican nominee Donald Trump as president.

“The people spoke up and said they had it with the overreach of the government,” Edward Newman of Bay Shore told lawmakers.

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.

No one from the public spoke in favor of the bill.

Gregory (D-Amityville) said he was motivated by a high school football teammate who died from an accidental gunshot.

“I am not anti-gun,” he said. “This comes from real experience. It’s not Chuck Schumer giving me talking points.”

Gun control advocates at prior hearings said securing firearms in locked storage would keep guns out of the hands of children and from being stolen. From 2011 through 2015 an average of 152 firearms each year were reported stolen in Suffolk County, according to county officials.

Gregory asked for a chance to reach an agreement on how to improve gun safety.

While the audience called for an up-or-down vote on the bill, the Suffolk lawmakers voted 5 to 4 to table it — keeping it alive in committee but not advancing it to a full vote of the legislature.

Bill Raab, a firearm instructor from Bay Shore, doubted that there would be a compromise. “Not in this form,” he said after the vote, saying the regulation would face lawsuits.

Judy Pepenella, 60 of Patchogue, said lawmakers and police should focus on gangs and drug dealers instead of legal gun owners. “We do have an illegal gun issue that needs to be controlled. This law do nothing to solve the problems,” she said.


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