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The state has established a toll-free tip line — 1-855-GUNSNYS (1-855-486-7697) to encourage residents to report illegal firearm possession. —DOCJS press release

Illegal guns tip line draws fire from legislators

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UPDATE: Since broadcast of this story, NCPR has heard from Governor Cuomo's office, saying that the tipline was not created as a way to enforce the NY SAFE law. Here's a statement from Janine Kava, director of public information at the state Division of Criminal Justice Services:

"This program has been in place for more than a year and is aimed only at getting illegal crime guns off the streets: a goal that every New Yorker can agree with."

The New York State Association of Police Chiefs also sent NCPR a letter explaining why police started discussing the tipline this week: "On Tuesday, an e-mail was sent out by the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police to our membership statewide regarding the New York State Gun Tip Line."

The NYSAPC letter explains that law enforcement officials were first made aware of the tipline in Februrary 2012, and discussion of it was revived earlier this week, "The e-mail was the result of a series of ongoing meetings to deal with reducing guns used in crimes in New York State. It had nothing to do with the NY SAFE ACT. In our most recent meeting on Monday afternoon we talked about reviving this tip line and informing our members about it by sending out a message and scheduling a conference call to discuss it."

Gun rights supporters, and some upstate New York lawmakers, are taking issue with an aspect of the new gun control laws, that rewards people for reporting illegal gun ownership to the state.

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Assembly member Ken Blankenbush of Black River posted a press release on his Facebook page from the state Division of Criminal Justice.  It explains the state's toll-free tipline, and encourages people to report illegal firearm possession. Tipsters can get a reward of $500.

Blankenbush calls this a tattle-tellers “tip” line and $500 bribe. He says the gun control laws were intended to keep gang members and illegal guns off city streets, but Cuomo is using it to pit neighbors against each other.

Other lawmakers have expressed similar sentiments.  Assembly member Bill Nojay of the Rochester area told an Albany radio station Thursday that the Cuomo administration is developing an informant and snitch network.

Meanwhile, Nojay has filed a lawsuit, along with gun advocates and groups from across the state, against Governor Cuomo and law enforcement officials.  They claim the new gun control laws violate their Second Amendment rights. The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Schneiderman said in a statement to the Albany Times-Union that his office will aggressively defend the protections embodied in the law, because "every New Yorker deserves to live in a safe neighborhood free from the threat of gun violence.”

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