As you are aware, last week at Kingston’s Laws and Rules Committee meeting, an amended version of Kingston’s Firearms Law (Chapter 223-3 in Kingston City Code) drafted by Ward 9 Alderwoman Deb Brown (that had been looked over by Kingston Corporation Council) was presented to vote to pass it through committee to council. The amended version states that “No person, other than in self defense or in the discharge of official duties, willfully discharge any species of firearms within the city limits of the City of Kingston, NY except an indoor facility designed and constructed as a shooting range, pursuant to a site plan approved by the City of Kingston Planning Board and operated in compliance with the laws and regulations of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Division of Safety and Health of the New York Department of Labor”
The amended law, however, was rejected by the committee with a 2-3 outcome. In favor was Ward 9 Alderwoman Deb Brown and Ward 7 Alderwoman Maryann Mills. Opposed was Ward 1 Alderwoman (and committee chair) Lynn Eckert, Ward 2 Alderman Doug Koop and Ward 5 Alderman (and Majority Leader) Bill Carey.
The law now moves out of committee and on to the Common Council next week (as a rejected item from committee) for a full council vote. Ward 6 Alderman Tony Davis, who works as a teacher for the Kingston City School District, must abstain and is considered a ‘no’ vote to whatever the outcome is next Tuesday due to the Board of Education’s resolution issued in early December of 2015.
A little refresher on how this all works.
The council meets on the first Monday of each month (this month, the date falls on May 2nd at 7:00pm) for their caucus where each of the parties have the opportunity to look over the draft agenda and legislation that will be placed in front of them to discuss. Generally at this meeting, council members debate each item and typically, the direction of the vote during the common council meeting is decided. This meeting is always open to the public. However, it is held in a small conference room which limits its capacity and generally, the public is not given the opportunity to speak.
On the first Tuesday of each month (this month, the date falls on May 3rd at 7:30pm), the Kingston Common Council hold their monthly meeting, where legislation and other items are put to a vote. This meeting is held in council chambers where hundreds of citizens can be easily seated. Up front, there is always a public comment period where anyone can speak on matters that are on the agenda or otherwise. Generally, the public comment period is 30 minutes in length, and citizens are asked to keep their testimony to 2-3 minutes in length to allow for as many comments as possible.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Monday, May 2nd, 2016 7:00pm Conference Room #1 VIEW CALENDAR ITEM
Members of the Kingston Common Council will discuss the Amended Firearms Law that was rejected out of the Laws and Rules Committee and other agenda items. This is an opportunity for the public to witness their council in action discussing the matter, and all other items on the agenda that evening. THIS EVENT WILL BE FILMED.
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 7:30PM Council Chambers VIEW CALENDAR ITEM
Members of the Kingston Common Council will cast their vote on the Amended Firearms Law and other agenda items. There is public comment up front starting at 7:30pm. Citizens wishing to speak should arrive at 7:15pm to sign- up at the podium and to secure a seat in council chambers. THIS EVENT WILL BE FILMED.
We request that the public support the council to send the amended Firearms Law back to the Laws and Rules committee for the text to be further vetted. This is in everyone’s best interest. The spirit of this law is a public safety and health issue, and there is no way around the fact that the law leaves out many critical features that should be in place to protect our community’s best interests.
WHAT CITIZENS CAN DO:
If you are only able to attend one of the two meetings, then we encourage citizens to attend the Kingston Common Council meeting that will take place on Tuesday, May 3rd at 7:30pm where the council will vote on the amended law. If you are comfortable to speak, then we request that you do so encouraging the council to move the amended law back to the Laws and Rules committee for further vetting. Citizens can also encourage or discourage the location of the shooting range/gun store – however, this discussion is more appropriate for the planning board and not the common council this evening. Changing the law is in their purview. Planning and zoning next week is not.
Residents can also submit a letter on the subject to the Kingston City Clerk
Carly Winnie at: firstname.lastname@example.org and request that she submit your letter to record, and to distribute to the entire common council and council president.
If your testimony includes support or opposition to the location of the range, please send it also to the City of Kingston Planning Department addressed to the Director of Planning Suzanne Cahill at: email@example.com requesting that it go on record and be distributed to all members of the Kingston Planning Board.
NOT FEAR. JUST THE FACTS.
KingstonCitizens.org is a non-partisan, citizen-run organization focused on increasing citizen engagement in local government and we’ve been at it for a decade. Regardless of how we have been portrayed, this platform does not take personal positions on issues. We simply point out the law and process, and in light of which, make recommendations based on both.
We also work hard to provide information to help Kingston citizens be more informed on issues that are of grave concern. Because we are a citizen run organization reliant on volunteers, we cannot take on every issue that comes down the pike, though we wish we could. We do, however, use each issue selected by members of our advisory committee to illustrate the concerns of the public and, to expose any disconnects that might be present on any of the subjects in the way of transparency and process. We believe that when both are intact, than a more fair outcome is possible.
What we have found is that on any issue we are focused on, many of the same concerns we raise are re-occurring elsewhere. It takes a village as they say, and hopefully, this work helps to encourage more citizen engagement in Kingston on all issues both large and small. Being civic minded is the public’s responsibility, after all.
In light of which, in a recent article, Ward 5 Alderman (and Majority Leader) Bill Carey is quoted as saying “I think the fear is unfounded” regarding the location of the shooting range and gun shop being proposed for Prince Street in Midtown Kingston.
This point of view should be challenged. It is important to point out the Kingston Board of Education, in their resolution signed on December 9th, 2015 states that: “…in the interest of safety and welfare of the students, faculty, employees and others present at the Kingston High School, hereby expresses its opposition to the establishing of a shooting range and gun store in close proximity to the Kingston High School campus…”
Here are several reasons why that on the public safety, health and economic development front (and given much of the public testimony), that concerns are indeed fact and not fear based:
Proximity of schools and childcare center. The proposed shooting range and gun shop will be located at 92 Prince Street in Midtown, Kingston. This is close to the Kingston High School (within 655 feet). The high school serves almost 3,000 students, and employs more than one hundred teachers and staff members. Further, the high school serves other students both within and outside of Kingston through after school activities such as sporting events, theater productions, and musical performances. The shooting range and gun shop is within 375 feet of the YMCA. The YMCA serves thousands of children and parents, not only in Kingston but throughout Ulster County.
Public safety: prevalence of guns in a densely populated area. According to the Brady Center, where there is a concentration of guns, there is a concentration of gun violence.
Public health and welfare: Despite guidelines about lead contamination for shooting ranges, recent research from the CDC shows elevated blood lead levels in ranges’ employees and customers. In Sacremento, an indoor shooting range was closed because of high levels of lead contamination inside and on the roof; lead levels were 70 times higher than the state hazard threshold. One of the world’s leading safety engineering firms Tetra Tech said that increased attention to lead contamination and human health exposure “has put range owners and operators into areas outside of their expertise.”
Also, although the district is zoned for commercial use, it is in a “Mixed-Use Overlay” district, which allows residential. The range is also next to a residential block. The rear wall of the proposed range — and direction of the firing — is 70 feet from the nearest residence and residential block.
Public awareness: The public needs to understand how public business is conducted. Laws are not amended only on the basis of public opinion. They must be vetted for public safety, health and welfare. It is important for the public to participate with full knowledge of what constitutes and is acceptable process under the law.
Economic Development and Kingston Comprehensive Plan: Kingston 2025 appropriately envisions “a new core” in Midtown Kingston where the creative economy can take root and businesses can grow. It aspires to create a mixed-use center in Midtown, “with multi-family residential incorporated with ground floor retail; pedestrian and bicycle friendly streets; active use of sidewalks; traditional architecture and historic identity.”
“These nodes will be connected not only by a network of streets supporting slow-speed/high-capacity vehicular travel, but by a network of on-road and off-road bicycle paths, and by public transit ranging from shuttle bus to trolley.” Prince Street and the intersecting network of streets are at the heart of this district.
At the last Kingston Laws and Rules Committee meeting, residents and neighbors spoke in support and against the amended law and, the location of the range. We encourage you to VIEW this video for your information.
Finally, we’d also like to clarify, that in the spirt of Democracy, KingstonCitizens.org respects all points of view. It is important to understand that a shooting range and gun shop inside of Midtown, Kingston – a Kingston specific issue – is far different than that of the Niagara Bottling proposal – one that had regional implications and that would impact communities in different ways that included Kingston, Woodstock, Town of Ulster, Saugerties, Port Ewen and Esopus.
In this case, Kingston’s Common Council needs to hear from Kingston citizens, and especially those who live, work and attend public schools, youth activities and child care in the Midtown area. Although public comment is open, we request that citizens living outside of the area respect those living in Kingston first. Specifically those in Midtown, which is the heart of Kingston. A good amount of investment has been poured into this area, and a lot more is known to be coming. That mustn’t be lost in this debate.