Western New York Assembly Minority Members Host Forum On Mental Health, School Safety & Violence

In an effort to improve upon failings in the NY S.A.F.E. Act and protect against another Sandy Hook-type mass shooting, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R,C,I-Clarence), along with Assemblymen John D. Ceretto (R,I,C-Lewiston), Raymond Walter (R,C,I-Amherst), David DiPietro (R,C-East Aurora), Steve Hawley (R,I,C-Batavia), Joseph M. Giglio (R,I,C-Gowanda) and Andy Goodell (R,C,I-Chautauqua), hosted a legislative forum today at the Mahoney State Office Building in Buffalo to discuss the very serious issues of mental health, school safety, gun violence and general public safety.

“My goal is to address the root causes of violence in our communities and to provide our schools with the resources needed to educate children about violence and guns, reduce the stigma attached to mental health and improve access to mental health care for those who need it, and to repeal the provisions of the NY S.A.F.E. Act that hinder our collective goal to keep our children, our homes and our neighborhoods safe,” said Corwin, who is crafting legislation based on the recommendations of the National Association of School Psychologists.

“As lawmakers, one of our top priorities must continue to be making New York State a safer place to live. To make our communities safer, we must address the issues of illegal gun crimes, the way the state cares for and diagnoses its mentally ill population and the safety of our schools,” said Ceretto. “Unfortunately, the S.A.F.E. Act failed to systematically address any of these issues and merely began a conversation that should have started years ago. Worse yet, this law takes away the rights of our law-abiding gun owners. In the haste to make headlines, the leaders of our state failed to make New York safer and foisted upon us a law that weakens our constitutional rights and erodes the foundation of our freedoms.”

“As a husband and father, I think it’s incredibly important to focus on providing a safe, bright future for our children and families. The public deserves to have a say in how we create that prosperous future, especially when it comes to such critical issues as bringing an end to bullying and violence in our schools, and providing crucial protections for the mentally ill in our community,” said Walter.

“While I seek to repeal the gun legislation passed earlier this session, I find it important that we hear the testimony of professionals to seek answers about how we may better protect our children,” said DiPietro. “This is how Albany should conduct its business. A transparent process so that every New Yorker can understand the legislation that will affect them as the legislature debates it.”

“Gun violence is a serious issue in our society, and we cannot afford to leave any stone unturned in our efforts to protect our communities,” said Hawley. “Because this issue touches the lives of so many New Yorkers, it is only common sense that we would incorporate public input into our efforts. In order to protect our safety and our rights as Americans, the people must have a say.”

“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 Giglio. “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.”

“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 Goodell.

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.

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 our society, particularly in schools, and to use the insights gained from the forum to assist the Assembly members in creating a more comprehensive legislative response to the NY S.A.F.E. Act.

Other state representatives from Western New York who attended include Senator Patrick Gallivan and Assemblymen Dennis Gabryszak and Mickey Kearns.