BUFFALO, N.Y. -- This week, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz vetoed a local law that would have allowed 12- and 13-year-old children to legally hunt deer with firearms, including rifles and shotguns.
The Erie County Legislature brought up a vote Thursday to potentially override that veto, but needing eight votes for a supermajority, the tally was 6-5. For now, that means Erie County remains the only upstate county not to opt in to the New York state pilot program.
"While Local Law Intro. No. 1-1-2021 acknowledges hunting as a valued tradition for many families, it remains silent on the inherent danger of expanding firearm access for our youth," Poloncarz said in his veto memo. "This expansion comes at a time when there have been many unfortunate firearm hunting accidents across the state and country, especially those involving youth hunters."
The county executive said there have recently been multiple hunting related shooting incidents across the state, including two involving children aunder the age of 13. Proponents of the law argue those cases involved children who were not properly trained and licensed and the pilot program is meant to avoid those instances.
However, Poloncarz said he receives all fatality reports for accidental or intentional death of children in Erie County and each is "gut-wrenching."
"We have it in our power to prevent a local child from becoming a 'statistic' regarding a hunting accident in our county. Neither myself, nor any future county executive, should ever have to read a child fatality report regarding the accidental death of a 12 or 13-year old child because this law went into affect under my signature," he said.
The Legislature Minority Conference issued a joint statement Thursday morning, calling Poloncarz's veto "ridiculous" and a demonstration of how out-of-touch he is with the people he is elected to represent.
"We heard from dozens of sportsmen’s’ groups, supporters of the legislation, and families who are passionate about hunting before we proposed this law. Right now, nearly every county in New York State has opted-in to allow this," they said. "It has already passed the Erie County Legislature. The law requires any 12 or 13-year-old to be supervised by a licensed, experienced adult. Clearly, County Executive Poloncarz did not listen to the overwhelming support laid out by those who spoke at both public hearings on the matter. We are disappointed and plan to call for an override veto vote in the coming days.”
Two Democrats also joined the minority in voting to override the veto.