The sheriffs thought they were being summoned to the Capitol to discuss ideas for changes to New York’s gun control law, the SAFE Act. Instead, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told them to keep quiet.
Opposition to the new law has simmered in upstate areas since Cuomo signed the law in January. Many county sheriffs oppose it, particularly its expanded definition of banned assault weapons, and have spoken out around the state. In January, the New York State Sheriffs’ Association wrote Cuomo with an analysis, and later suggested tweaks.
Cuomo invited its leaders to the Capitol last month, people briefed on the meeting said. The group included Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Peter Kehoe and Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss.
“We didn’t get a response (to the analysis) from him, but we could tell after the budget was passed that none of those recommendations were taken into consideration,” Moss said. “When we got there, we never got to the contents of the letter.”
Instead, Cuomo pushed the sheriffs to stop publicly speaking out against the act, Moss said.
“The governor was of the opinion that the sheriffs around the state should not be interjecting their personal opinions in reference to the law,” Moss said, adding that Cuomo said sheriffs can’t do that and enforce the law.
One person briefed on the meeting said Cuomo threatened to remove sheriffs from office, a little-used power afforded the state’s chief executive under the state constitution. Moss would not confirm this. He did say the meeting was heated at times, but overall he described it as “cordial.”
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