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Weekend forum will attempt to address concerns surrounding SAFE Act

As New York state passes the first anniversary of the SAFE Act in New York state this week, confusion still reigns for many about the controversial gun control law. A forum this weekend in Syracuse hopes to clear up some of the questions for sportsmen and sportswomen in particular.

In the year since the SAFE Act became law, there have been amendments, court rulings and delays regarding parts of the legislation, and that’s created questions for many. Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department Chief John Balloni hopes to answer some of those questions at a Saturday forum sponsored by the Onondaga County Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs -- questions like what happens if a hunter is borrowing a gun from a friend and doesn’t know if it’s complying with the law.

"I don’t know who owns what gun as a police officer," Balloni said. "I’m walking up and you have two legal weapons, and I’m going to say have a nice day if you’re not doing anything else illegal. I think some of this is fear because the law has a lot of sections that aren’t completely hashed out, that aren’t completely clarified, and aren’t completely implemented.”

He says the law can also inadvertently turn law-abiding citizens into law breakers.

"People that legally possess guns or utilize them for sport or self protection in their home, whatever, as a general rule are extremely law abiding citizens," Balloni said. "So this makes them nervous. They don’t want to break the law by accident I guess I would say.”

Balloni also says since the state approved the SAFE Act a year ago, many other people are hiding guns that are now illegal under the law.  

"The law made criminals out of otherwise law abiding people," he explained. "It pushed a lot more weapons out into our community, and a lot more ammunition out into our community. If this isn’t just the opposite of what this law was designed to do, I don’t know what is.”

Balloni has been a vocal opponent of the law, and believes most gun owners who legally possess guns are law abiding citizens who are worried about breaking this new law by accident. He believes that ultimately the SAFE Act has been a law of unintended consequences, by pushing more guns and ammunition onto the streets and creating a group of unintended criminals.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.