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State senator calls SAFE Act unsafe, proposes repeal everywhere but NYC


Republican State Senator Robert Ortt, whose district includes parts of Monroe County, says the New York SAFE Act hasn’t been living up to its name.

“The SAFE Act hasn’t done anything to save anybody,” Ortt said. “I dare anyone to show me a correlation between a reduction in gun violence in New York State and the SAFE Act.”

That’s why Ortt is proposing a bill to repeal the SAFE Act exclusively in upstate New York. And, he said, at the request of gun rights advocates, including the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, he is going to amend the bill to call for a repeal everywhere in the state except New York City. 

Ortt said if New York City can have different regulations for minimum wage, and ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, then the same principle could work for gun control.

“If we can do that for those, certainly something as important as our second amendment rights, we can come up with a different legislation for that,” Ortt said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo put the SAFE Act in effect in 2013 to stop criminals and the mentally ill from buying a gun without a background check, on the heels of a school mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

According to critics, making a distinction between upstate and downstate New York doesn’t make any sense when it comes to the topic of gun control. Democratic Assemblyman Harry Bronson called Ortt’s proposed bill “problematic” and “over reaching.”

“If there is a desire to make some changes, like maybe some of the fees regarding background checks for dealers or other changes regarding the process to renew a pistol permit, those are things that I think we could look at,” Bronson said.

Ortt said his bill has been gaining “positive traction” despite the naysayers and is moving forward with the process.

“I still have an uphill battle to climb with the governor and the assembly, but it’s a marker down and it continues the conversation,” Ortt said. 

Sasha-Ann Simons joined the team at WXXI News in 2015 as a Multimedia Reporter/Producer. She tells stories about the innovation economy and technology in upstate New York and also does general assignment reporting. Sasha-Ann is the host of Arts InFocus, WXXI-TV's weekly arts and culture program. She is also a fill-in host and regular contributor to Need To Know.