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Sheriff Virts Amicus Brief Testimony Friday June 7, 2013




June 7 June 7 (143 KB)



Wayne County Office of the Sheriff

Barry Virts, Sheriff


Legislative Hearing on Implementation of the NY-SAFE Act

Williamsville, NY


June 7, 2013



Good morning,

New York State Assembly Members, local, county and state officials, guests and most important; our fellow citizens, thank you for the opportunity to express my position and concerns regarding the NY SAFE Act.

While many of the provisions in the new law have surface appeal it is far from certain any will have a significant effect in reducing violent criminal behavior.


It is the felon and the mentally ill who is a threat to himself and others that are committing horrendous and terrifying crimes using firearms against victims.


It is not the law abiding citizen that misuses his or her right to bear arms.



Restriction on FOIL requests of pistol permit holders.


The law provides a mechanism to allow pistol permit holders to decide for themselves whether their personal information should be accessible to the public by FOIL.

I believe that no one should have to explain why their pistol permit information should remain confidential. An “opt in” rather than “opt out” process would have been more effective and efficient for pistol permit license holders and public safety.


Killing of emergency first responders.

I agree with making the killing of emergency first responders aggravated or first degree murder, enhancing penalties for these crimes and requiring life without parole.




Comprehensive review of mental health records.

The new law requires mental health professionals may make a determination if a person is a threat to himself or others.

I believe this issue demands a much fuller and detailed discussion about how to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who are a threat to themselves and others, and not drive those needing mental health care from receiving such care.


Safe storage of firearms.

I agree that firearm owners should have the responsibility to make sure their firearms are safeguarded against use or access by prohibited persons, and ensure firearms are safely and securely stored.


Assault weapon ban and definition of assault weapons.

I believe that the new definition of assault weapons is too broad, and prevents the possession of many firearms that are legitimately used for hunting, target shooting and self-defense.

Classifying firearms as assault weapons because of one arbitrary feature effectively deprives people the right to possess firearms which have never before been designated as assault weapons.

I am convinced that only law abiding gun owners will be affected by these new provisions, while criminals will still have and use whatever weapons they can unlawfully obtain.


Reduction of ammunition magazine capacity.

The law reduces the capacity of ammunition placed in magazines from 10 to 7.

I believe based on my law enforcement experience that this will not reduce gun violence.


Five year recertification of pistol permits status and registration.

The new law delegates to the State Police the duty to solicit and receive updated personal information of pistol permit holders every five years in order to maintain these permits.

Further, the law requires owners of certain existing firearms now classified as assault weapons to register with the State Police within one year.

Pistol permit information should be maintained in one file at the county level, and forwarded to a statewide database for law enforcement use as it currently is.

Any additional costs to maintain this information at the county level should be funded by the state.



The method of the act’s passage.

It is my view that anytime government decides it is necessary or desirable to test the boundaries of a constitutional right that it should only be done with caution and with great respect for those constitutional boundaries.

I further believe it should only be done if the benefit to be gained is so great and certain that it far outweighs the damage done by the constriction of individual liberty.

Unfortunately the process used to adopt this act did not permit the mature development of arguments on either side of the debate, and thus many of the stakeholders in this important issue are left feeling ignored by their government.

Even those thrilled with the passage of this legislation should be concerned about the process used to secure its passage, for the next time they may find themselves the victim of that same process of necessity.

I understand my Constitutional obligations and the concerns of constituents.

I represent all the people, and I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New York.

I will continue to enforce all laws of the state and will protect the rights of all citizens.

The problems and concerns addressed by the act should have been criminal behavior, not the law abiding citizen that appropriately owns and possesses firearms.

I support any and all legislation that focuses on the criminal behavior of felons and the mentally ill that are a threat to themselves and others that are committing these horrendous and terrifying crimes while using firearms.

The NY SAFE Act unfairly focuses on law abiding citizens that legally and lawfully possess, use and enjoy their firearms for pleasure, hunting, target shooting, self-defense and most importantly their constitutional right to bear arms.

In closing, appropriate people should have guns and inappropriate people should not.


Very Sincerely,


Barry C. Virts, Sheriff




C: NYS Assembly Member Hon. Robert Oaks

NYS Senate Member Hon. Michael Nozzolio