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Greenburgh Officials Want Gun Control, School Safety

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (above) and Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner want tighter gun regulations and more focus on mental health and school safety in the wake of the Newtown school tragedy.
Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (above) and Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner want tighter gun regulations and more focus on mental health and school safety in the wake of the Newtown school tragedy. Photo Credit: Jes Siart

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Greenburgh officials want stricter gun controls and stronger school security in response to Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant) said every violent incident like Friday's sets the stage for future violence. Echoing Westchester County Board Chairman Ken Jenkins and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Abinanti proposed a three-point plan that calls for stricter gun regulations and a stronger focus on mental health.

"No, the answer to violence is not more violence," Abinanti wrote in a letter titled " Stop the Violence Now ." "The second amendment doesn't guarantee the right to bear arms to kill innocent teachers and children."

Abinanti wants military-style weapons completely banned, and for every gun owner to be carefully licensed and trained in gun safety. All gun owners should be checked for this training and mental health purposes periodically, he said.

Greenburgh should also make better use of mental health professionals to minimize the likelihood of violence, Abinanti added.

"We have annual physicals, dental exams and car inspections — why not see a mental health professional?" he wrote.

Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner, who is currently calling on Westchester County officials to ban a February gun show at the Westchester County Center, is also asking state Congress to fund a School Resource Officer Program.

The SRO program would assign police officers to Greenburgh school districts, he said. The officer would work with the school to provide full police services, which "includes everything from parking and traffic concerns to criminal offenses," Feiner said.

"On an individual basis, the SRO can improve the relationships between youth and police, one child at a time," Feiner wrote in an email. "On a much larger scale, the SRO facilitates a partnership between the police department and the school system."

A Greenburgh police officer was assigned to Woodlands Middle and High School 10 years ago as part of the SRO program, but was discontinued by the district. Under the previous SRO program, Greenburgh Central 7 had to foot half the bill — about $47,000, according to the 2002 budget — but if the state agrees to fund it, Feiner hopes all schools will take advantage of the security the program would offer.

"A lot of people just don't like the idea of having police in school because they think it changes the dynamics," he said. "But the SROs are professionals — they know what to look for. I think people would be safer."

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