Family of Woodstock Executive Director Michael Berg says Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to help keep guns out of the hands of people convicted of domestic violence crimes is important.
"The person that has suffered domestic violence at the hands of a partner should not have to worry about a partner taking a gun out and threatening or using it," Berg said.
Under the proposal, people convicted of all domestic violence crimes, including misdemeanors, must surrender firearms. Currently, state law prohibits people convicted of felonies or serious offenses from carrying firearms, but this excludes certain misdemeanor offenses involving domestic violence like assault and battery.
"So they should know if you violate the laws about domestic violence, you are going to lose your guns, period," Berg said.
Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum, who has been very vocal about his support for the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, says that the proposal is actually very similar to the county’s policy, and that he supports the potential changes.
Right now, if a person is charged with any crime in Ulster County, a judge will more than likely order the sheriff's office to take their handguns until the matter is resolved -- but it's up to the judge's discretion.
Regardless of whether or not a person is convicted, their guns cannot be returned without an order from the court. If there is an order of protection, a judge will normally order all guns to be seized, including long guns – but again, it’s up to the judge’s discretion.
So while there are similar procedures in place, Van Blarcum says better safe than sorry.
"Any police officer that has been around a while has seen instances like this where it happens where somebody gets arrested, they might even go to jail, they're issued an order of protection -- it could be a full stay-away order -- but then they go and get themselves a long gun, and have used that to kill the other person involved in it," Van Blarcum said.
Another change in the proposal is that a judge must order a defendant to surrender any type of firearm if there is an order of protection. Right now in Ulster County, it's up to the judge’s discretion whether or not to do so.
Berg says if the proposal is passed, it would have a positive impact on communities across the state – including Ulster County.
"The threat of being killed by guns is a real threat," he said. "If the impact of this law is to take those guns away, it will lessen the threat."