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Local legislatures in New York want gun retailers to display warning labels

a table of handguns and ammo
Paul Tuthill

Amid a national debate over new gun control measures, county lawmakers in New York want firearm retailers to display warning signs.

The Albany County Legislature introduced a local law Monday night to educate people on the public health and safety risks associated with firearms.

The Albany County Commitment to Ensuring a Safe Society, or ACCESS, would require a warning sign displayed at all firearms dealers indicating the increased risk of violence associated with firearms as well as contact information for the Albany County Mobile Crisis Team and the National Suicide Hotline.

30th District Democratic Legislator Dustin Reidy sponsored the measure.

“What Local Law F does is it requires any place that sells weapons or firearms, to post a warning sign, you know, letting folks know that you know, the dangers that firearms pose, and it also has the local number for our mobile crisis team, and the National Suicide Hotline," said Reidy. "And, and this warning will be required to be given out if you do become licensed, and will be given out when you purchase firearms.”

Reidy says failure to display the warning label may result in imprisonment of not more than 15 days, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.

Also Monday night, the Democratic Caucus of the Dutchess County Legislature introduced a gun warning resolution. Yvette Valdés Smith is minority leader:

“Now this resolution has a very similar one that was passed recently in Westchester County," Smith said. "And it does require for signage to be posted in all areas in which a firearm can be purchased here in Dutchess County. We believe that gun violence is a public safety issue. It is an urgent public safety issue. And we're not going to sit idly by while anybody or anyone, can be hurt by gun violence. We believe this measure can be worked on in a bipartisan way. This is why we introduced it yesterday on the floor. But we did not walk on the resolution. What we did was we introduced the bill so that we could work on it in a bipartisan fashion. We Democrats in the Dutchess County Legislature, we are in the minority. So we would need votes from the Republican side as well in order to make anything pass.”

Smith believes there will be enough Republican support to pass the measure.

David Petronis is a federally licensed firearms dealer who operates a gun shop in Saratoga County and promotes gun shows in New York state.

"I would not be in favor of this rule, legislation, whatever they're proposing, of putting signs on guns like warning notices," said Petronis. "I mean, the obvious fact is there it is. It's a gun. So ‘warning, do not touch unless experienced.‘ But I don't think we need a sign for that. That's why we have people behind the counter who explain this to people when they come in to buy something.”

Petronis says responsible gun shop owners size up and screen customers, and thinks New York gun laws are pretty tough already.

“There are people now who come in, and they just want a gun," Petronis said. "I mean, there are 70-year-old, 80-year-old little old ladies, 'I really think I need a pistol.' Now they're not going to be able to get that because we have such a thing as a pistol permit here in New York state. And it takes quite a while to get this pistol permit, right now seeing everybody's backlogged. You know, every month, the background check out does itself an thousands and thousands and thousands of background checks every single month.”

Reidy thinks the labeling law will make a difference.

“If this does save just one life, it'll be successful," Reidy said. "When you look at gun violence, it's not just mass shootings that are happening. But gun violence is a pervasive and constant threat in this country, that gun deaths is the number one cause of deaths to children over one year old, here in the United States.”

Tracey Fountain, who volunteers with the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action, says the proposed local laws represent another step in the right direction.

“Access to firearms in someone's household triples the suicide risk for every member of that household," Fountain said. "And it also increases risk of unintentional shooting by a child if a child comes across that firearm. That happens just under one time every day in this country on average. And that's too much.”

Albany County's ACCESS law is being referred to the Law and Public Safety Committees for further review.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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