BUFFALO - In an effort to improve upon the New York S.A.F.E. Act and protect against another Sandy Hook-type mass shooting, several state Assembly members recently hosted a legislative forum at the Mahoney State Office Building in Buffalo to discuss the issues of mental health, school safety, gun violence and general public safety.
"Today's hearing is being held to gather input from members of the public and from experts, medical professionals, law enforcement and other public officials on the important issues of mental health, school safety and gun violence," said Assemblyman Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda. "I believe our objective should be to strengthen the mental health care system and improve public and school safety. It is important that we listen to the views of others regarding these topics, and that is what we committed to do today."
The coalition heard testimony from experts in the fields of school psychology and mental health care, educators, law enforcement and Second Amendment advocates about the correlation of these factors and what comprehensive measures can be taken by the state to actually improve the safety of every citizen. Representatives from the Erie County Mental Health Association, National Association of School Psychologists, Erie County Association of School Boards, SCOPE and Niagara Gun Range were among the organizations who presented testimony. Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard, Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs and Niagara County Deputy Clerk Wendy Roberson also testified. Written testimony was also provided by Children's Mental Health Association and WNY Children's Psychiatric Center.
"Today's forum presented my colleagues and me with the opportunity to have the type of public discussion that school violence deserves, not the rush job that characterized the NY S.A.F.E. Act. It was unfortunate that groups like these weren't able to express their viewpoints before the legislation was so quickly moved through the legislative process. While portions of the legislation, such as expanding background checks and mental health services, are positive steps toward preventing a repeat of the recent tragedies, having greater public input could have allowed us the opportunity to best structure the new laws to meet the public's needs, while protecting Chautauqua County's thousands of law-abiding outdoorsmen and firearms enthusiasts," said Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Chautauqua County.
The collective goal of the members hosting today's event was to include these experts in an open and productive conversation about the root causes of violence in society, particularly in schools, and to use the insights gained from the forum to help the Assembly members create a more comprehensive legislative response to the S.A.F.E. Act.
Other state representatives from Western New York who attended include state Sen. Patrick Gallivan and state Assemblymen Dennis Gabryszak and Mickey Kearns.