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Police chiefs defend year-old illegal gun tip line

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Let's look back now at a story reported late last week. New York state Assembly member Steve McLaughlin of the Capital Region issued a press release taking issue with a state tipline for people to report illegal possession of firearms. McLaughlin said the tipline would pit neighbor against neighbor, and he used it to criticize New York's new gun control laws.

Some North Country lawmakers agreed with him. And comments by these leaders went viral.

We reported about it at NCPR. Then we heard from Governor Cuomo's office, which said the tipline wasn't a new program, and it wasn't part of the New York SAFE Act. It's been in place for the past year.

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Reported by

Julie Grant
Reporter and Producer

Richard Carey is deputy director of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. He says the tip line started in February 2012.

But Carey says people weren't using it, so a notice went out to police departments around the state last week, reminding them about it. It offers a possible $500 reward to residents who report illegal guns.

"This was just this past Tuesday, we sent out an additional notice, at the behest of some state officials, that the tip line had been underused since its inception. And we just sent out a reminder notice that it's available for use."

Some gun control opponents in the state assembly were up in arms about the tip line. Assembly member Steve McLaughlin, for example, called it a new initiative by Governor Cuomo and his administration to confiscate illegal firearms, including those that were legal before recent passage of the New York SAFE Act gun control laws.

The Department of Criminal Justice Services sent out a statement, saying, quote, "This program has been in place for more than a year and is only aimed at getting illegal crime guns off the streets: a goal that every New Yorker can agree with."

But Republican Ken Blankenbush of Black River calls the tip line a snitch line. He helped the issue go viral, when he wrote as much on his Facebook page.  Blankenbush knows the tip line has been around for a year, but he says the state shouldn't push for people to use it, so soon after passage of the new gun control laws.

"I just think it was bad timing. I think it's true the tip line has been out there. It's just a new effort the Governor's pushed out there, that I just think is a wrong effort. But now to come out and say you can blow your neighbor in for $500, I just disagree with that."

Richard Carey of the New York police chiefs group says this has gotten wrapped up in politics, but that's not what law enforcement is supposed to be about.

"I guess at the end of the day, if we have felons possessing handguns, and there are people that know about that, there should be some utility for them to report that."

Carey says if the tip-line gets illegal weapons off the streets and out of neighborhoods, everyone is safer.

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