CANTON — Piggybacking off the recent alterations and lifting of restrictions to St. Lawrence County pistol license holders by Hamilton County Court Judge Tatiana Coffinger, the sheriff’s department is moving to institute a gun safety educational program.
Sheriff Brooks J. Bigwarfe brought a resolution before the County Operations Committee Monday night seeking approval for the creation of the program which would be $30 for participants.
Additionally, the sheriff sought approval from the board to modify the 2020 budget for the sheriff’s office that would have an increase of $5,361 that the sheriff said would be balanced out by revenue from the program.
“I think the sheriff’s office should be the lead advocate of the safety of any firearms and because of that and because of the cost by some of the other agencies or groups that are running this, which could be $40, $50, $60, $70 at a time, I want a resolution where I can run this program through our firearms instructor for $30 a cost, maybe try to get 30 people per class,” Sheriff Bigwarfe told the lawmakers. “That will make it no money for the county residents. It would be equalization between overtime and fringe if we have 30 people at $30.”
On Jan. 2, Judge Coffinger, one of several out-of-county judges appointed to fill the void left by Judge Jerome J. Richards’ retirement, filed a memorandum with the County Clerk’s office that lays out ways to lift restrictions Judge Richards imposed on pistol permit holders.
However, there are other modifications or amendments that were put into place.
One of those was, in order for current St. Lawrence County pistol permit holders with restrictions to apply for removal of the restrictions, they must complete the NRA approved Pistol Safety Course (or a Type 1 classroom safety course provided by a Sheriff’s Department) within the previous five years of this application for review.
The type of program the sheriff is setting up is a Type 1 classroom safety course required by Judge Coffinger and would be a PowerPoint, instruction and education class that would not require the use of the firearms. It would be about how to handle and store a gun safely, how to fire a gun and how to handle the clearing of a gun following any misfires, among other things, Sheriff Bigwarfe said.
Vice Chairman David W. Forsythe, R-Lisbon, thanked the sheriff for stepping up and asking for the creation of the program, but said he was “vehemently against the course,” and that it was a restriction that Jefferson County didn’t have.
“For now I’ll live with it,” he said. “How soon? How often? I know a ton of people waiting for this.”
Sheriff Bigwarfe said once the resolution makes it through the full legislative board meeting, he has dates set for the middle of March at the Sheriff’s Office and it will be incorporated through the County Clerk’s Office, where people would sign up and pay the fee.
The people on the list would get a call from the Sheriff’s Office to check their availability. Classes would be offered on Saturday mornings as well as weekday nights.
“We’ll have it where we will fill those up, minimal 25 usually 30 people and that will take care of all of our costs,” Sheriff Bigwarfe said. “If we don’t meet that goal, we won’t have that day of training because we don’t want to lose money.”
Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid, joined other legislators in thanking the sheriff for moving forward with the creation of the program but added that he believed the safety class was important.
“Many of us get our pistol licenses and maybe we had some training from a parent or a friend,” Mr. Acres said. “I think while it is a burden, maybe so to some, but I think it is still important for us. It does no harm, except for maybe the 30 bucks. I wish we could have done it for free. I realize that that’s not possible and I think the $30 is very fair.”