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Pistol permits

A provision in New York’s SAFE Act that requires pistol permit holders to recertify five years after the issuance of the original permit is not completely clear, so the recertification deadline should be postponed one year until issues can be ironed out.

A provision in New York’s SAFE Act that requires pistol permit holders to recertify five years after the issuance of the original permit has some unanswered questions.

And since the required re-certifications must be completed by Jan. 31, this should be postponed one year until issues can be ironed out.

Utica-area state representatives agree. Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, plans to introduce a bill that does just that, and Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford, will co-sponsor it. Meanwhile, state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, who has opposed the SAFE Act from the get-go, sent a letter to the governor last week requesting that he grant an extension to permit holders.

And Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, had this to say in an email: “There obviously are significant problems with the recertification process for New York residents with pistol permits. The January 31st deadline for recertification this year needs to be pushed back until problems which have resulted in a backlog of recertification applications are resolved, and holders of pistol permits receive proper notification that they need to recertify.”

The Jan. 31 recertification deadline is for those who were issued pistol permits before Jan. 15, 2013. Anyone issued a permit on Jan. 15, 2013, or after will need to recertify within five years.

What happens to those who don’t?

No one is quite sure.

Do they become felons? Maybe.

Will their pistols be confiscated? By whom?

That could get messy.

Fact is, this provision could turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals. As Griffo points out in his letter to Cuomo: “My district has approximately 26,000 permit holders who are required to recertify in Oneida County, approximately 5,000 permit holders that should recertify in Lewis County and approximately 17,000 permit holders in St. Lawrence County who are required to go through the recertification process.”

The senator said some reports indicate that regions across the state are seeing a low compliance rate due to confusion about the recertification process and backlogs at county clerk offices. He said the delays and confusion warrant an extension to help county clerks deal effectively with the recertification process.

“This will help alleviate any confusion and concern that a person may have and will ensure that law-abiding gun owners don’t face the risk of being considered a criminal,” Griffo said.

It will also, as Assemblymen Butler and Miller say, allow for answers to some poignant questions.

For instance, letters supposedly went out to pistol/revolver license holders regarding the recertification process, but it’s possible some did not receive them. A FAQ box from state police — overseeing the recertification process — states that it is the gun owner’s responsibility to recertify the pistol/revolver license whether they receive a notification letter or not.

And those who don’t?

That question is not addressed.

For law enforcement, this can become a nightmare. Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol said in the case of recertification, it could also have significant ramifications on police across the entire state.

Maciol said that currently when there is a problem with a pistol permit holder, his department begins a process that takes between six to eight hours to complete if a judge issues a revocation order. That’s just for one case. Given the current number of permit holders who have yet to recertify, they could theoretically be faced with more than 20,000 cases. Maciol did the math — that’s about 78 years’ worth of manpower if everyone was to be charged. And that’s just Oneida County.

Maciol, too, has questions — like who would initiate the process in the first place?

Maciol is passionate about the issue, saying that this goes to prove that the SAFE Act really only affects law-abiding citizens. The pistol permit issuing process is very thorough, he said, requiring everything from character references to mental health evaluations and fingerprinting.

Whether you agree with the SAFE Act or not, there’s little question this recertification deadline should be extended. Most every single owner of a legally registered pistol in New York state is a law-abiding citizen.

Let’s not turn them into criminals.

This editorial appeared in the Utica Observer-Dispatch on Jan. 12.

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