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Mark’s Law at the forefront of FASNY’s mind

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WEST CARTHAGE — Getting Mark’s Law passed led an ambitious agenda of 18 issues at the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York’s first legislative outreach meeting of the year, held Sunday afternoon at the West Carthage Fire Department, 61 High St.

The bill, named for Mark B. Davis, a Cape Vincent EMT who was shot and killed while responding to a call in 2009, hits close to home. His stepsister, Maricia L. Astafan, was a member of the department when the incident occurred, said First Assistant Chief Lawrence A. Hall Jr.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, introduced the original form of the bill, intended to make the killing of first responders first-degree murder. It passed the Senate twice, only to be rejected by the Assembly.

This year, Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, drafted an “enhanced” version with two controversial additions. One is that firearm owners must keep guns away from mentally unstable individuals and homicidal criminals; the crime would be punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The bill also would limit publicly available information regarding pistol permit holders to name and county of residence.

The bill is not yet an “issue of united concern” among first responder advocacy groups, though FASNY lobbyist Peter B. O’Connell said he was “99 percent sure” it would become one, noting that the organization has always supported it.

Mr. O’Connell said many believed the bill met resistance because it was opposed by New York City police unions that did not want firefighters or EMTs entitled to the same considerations afforded police officers.

Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, told the dozens in attendance that although he hasn’t seen anything in writing, it was “more than a rumor” that the bill was opposed by police from the city even though state and local police have supported it.

The Christmas Eve killing of two volunteer firefighters by a convicted felon in Webster may provide the impetus to push the bill through both houses, Mr. O’Connell said.

Joseph A. Finnegan, a past president and current trustee of FASNY, said Mrs. Russell’s attempt to intertwine Mark’s Law with other legislation amounts to “changing horses in the eleventh hour” and will only complicate matters.

Other bills backed by FASNY include removing highly volatile polyurethane foam from furniture, banning novelty lighters, keeping sex offenders out of volunteer service and increasing the availability of affordable health care.

Another priority for the group is getting job protection during state-declared emergencies such as Hurricane Sandy.

The Firemen’s Association will take its legislative outreach to 11 other departments throughout the state between now and the end of April, starting next weekend in Homer.

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