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Hearing on firearm laws fuels debate in Cayuga Heights

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Hearing on firearm laws fuels debate in Cayuga Heights
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A proposal to change local firearms laws to allow sharpshooters in Cayuga Heights is met with impassioned debate. Tamara Lindstrom has the latest on the plan to cut down the deer population.

TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. -- It's the next step in a plan that has stirred passionate arguments from both opponents and supporters.

"The primary purpose of the amendment to the law is to allow contractors selected by the board to be legally allowed to discharge firearm in the village," said Cayuga Heights Mayor Kate Supron.

Leaders in the Village of Cayuga Heights held a hearing Wednesday morning on the proposed change to local firearm laws. It would allow the firm White Buffalo to shoot deer within Village limits to reduce the population.

"There's too many of them," said Cayuga Heights resident Pete Bottorff. "The amount of property damage that they have done is appalling. When I moved in 17 years ago, I had some lovely bushes out in front, some magnolias and stuff like that. There's hardly anything left of them."

But most of the 45 community members who spoke at the hearing expressed deep concerns. The main issue was safety.

"It's 1.7 square miles. It is not big enough with senior citizens, children riding bikes, people walking dogs, to have people shooting guns," said Sherrie Negrea, a Cayuga Heights resident.

"There is very clear opposition in this community and there's a lot of worry," said village resident Kora von Wittelsbach. "I teach at Cornell and I'm very concerned about the safety of my students, of my friends. Parents of Cornell students have been calling me. They are extremely concerned."

The mayor says she's confident in the contractors.

"They have very stringent standards on safety. And this is a tight environment. They acknowledge it. We acknowledge it," Supron said.

Neighbors asked for alternative solutions, suggesting sterilizing more deer or allowing homeowners greater freedom to build fences.

"I feel it's incumbent on the board to find a solution that we can all work with and that will not put people in fear of their lives," Negrea said.

Supron pointed out that despite the controversy, she ran unopposed on a deer management platform in the last election. The mayor invited opponents to run in the March elections.

"That is the decision making process," Supron said. "That is the way that people can affect change."

Meanwhile, board members are determined to see the plan through.

Leaders will still need permission from property owners to allow shooting within 500 feet of their residences.

The board plans to vote in January.

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