ITHACA, N.Y.—Talks began briefly Wednesday night at the monthly City Adminstration Committee meeting about new gun storage laws in Ithaca, with the hope of cutting down on guns kept in homes without being stored in a safe manner.

The gist of the legislation is to make sure those who own guns keep them “stored in a locked container or disabled with a locking device” while the gun is in a residence.

“The firearm must be stored or disabled in a manner that a reasonable person would believe renders it inaccessible to unauthorized users,” the legislation reads. “It is a violation of this prohibition if the key, or mechanism, or code to unlock or disable the locked container or locking device is reasonably accessible to someone other than the owner or custodian.”

Violations will cost $500 for a first violation and $1,000 for a second, as proposed.

There are certain details to be clarified, such as the exceptions for when a person is carrying the weapon or when it is kept in “close enough proximity and control that the owner or other lawfully authorized user of the firearm can readily retrieve and use the firearm […] as if carried on the person.” But the ordinance would also deal with civil liability in the case of a gun being left unattended in an unsafe manner.

“If an unauthorized user obtains access to a firearm or precursor part because of
a violation of [the ordinance] and uses the firearm or precursor part to injure or kill
themselves or another, the owner or custodian shall be liable in a civil action for the
death or injury,” it states.

While gun crime in the City of Ithaca isn’t nearly as rampant as it is other places, it’s become a more popularly discussed topic over the last few years locally.

“The attempt behind this legislation is to reduce the number of unsecured firearms in the city,” Cantelmo said. “The intention here is really fostering compliance, there is a fee associated with this in the case of violation. I think a lot of responsible gun owners already engage in this, it’s a safe practice to encourage.”

Defendini said he comes from a family of gun owners who always practiced safe storage, and that he supported codifying the regulation even if it’s normal practice among responsible gun owners.

“It’s a very good idea to require this throughout the city,” Defendini said. “There’s very clear data that without regulations like this, common sense stuff, accidents and fatalities or escalations are common.”

Alderperson Kris Haines-Sharp asked how violations would be reported, to which Cantelmo responded that he envisioned police officers noting violations during the course of other business. He added, though, that it is also a duty that the unarmed responders, part of the Reimagining Public Safety recommendations, could potentially undertake.

Cantelmo said before the next council meeting he hoped to have comments from the state prosecutor and Ithaca Police Department officials, though he said the latter had already indicated that such legislation would likely not impact their workload very much. Alderperson Jeffrey Barken also requested the inclusion of information about how many guns there actually are owned in Ithaca and Tompkins County in the language of the bill.

George McGonigal during Wednesday’s CA meeting. Credit: Casey Martin / The Ithaca Voice

Alderperson George McGonigal almost told what sounds like an intriguing, and perhaps criminally actionable, story involving “a chicken coop, skunk, a loaded pistol with a hair trigger in a bedside table, in a house with two small children” he said with a chuckle. He did not tell the story further—for now.

Blacks Hands Universal and Unbroken Promise Initiative funding

Black Hands Universal and Unbroken Promise Initiative both moved closer to receiving their funding from the city’s 2023 budget, after months of back-and-forth requests. Both organizations, which emerged as two of the most significant community impact efforts in Ithaca from the 2020 protests and accompanying nationwide racial justice movement.

While the two are slated for $50,000 each, there have been some gaps in information from the pair that the city said it needs to proceed with allocation. There were still questions on specifics from committee members about expenses, but the city had already deemed that there was at least sufficient information to push the matter forward.

“I’m inclined to let this go to council and put out a request for documentation,” Cantelmo said. “If we get to council and there are requested documents that we do not have, we are always able to refer it back to committee and take a look at that point.”

Cantelmo acknowledged that when council put the appropriations for programing in the budget, they hadn’t laid out exactly what they expected to be given in terms of specific plans from organizations like Black Hands Universal and UPI, which were founded in the last few years and has less experience interacting with city government. McGonigal, who had raised the objection, agreed after some discussion, withdrawing his motion to table the vote and hold the funds until more information was given.

A similar process was held with UPI’s funding, though representatives from that organization have been more urgent with the city by showing up to city meetings and asking that the city fulfill its allocation promise in the budget. McGonigal again said he would like more information on how the money would be spent, similar to Black Hands Universal, but once again the motion was passed and the decision will move on to council.

News and Notes

Defendini said he would be bringing a proposal forward next month to establish Ithaca as a sanctuary for people seeking gender affirming or transgender healthcare as a reaction to the wave of anti-transgender laws in certain states across the country. He said it would mirror Cantelmo’s legislation last year declaring Ithaca an sanctuary for those seeking abortions.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief at The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at