ITHACA, N.Y.—An ordinance that would create new penalties for gun owners who fail to properly secure their firearms was tabled at Common Council’s City Administration Committee on Wednesday.

The law would require the owners of firearms to store them in a locked container, or disable it with a locking device. Failing to do so would result in a $500 fine for first time offenders, and $1,000 fines for subsequent violations in a single-year period.

Owners of firearms would become vulnerable to civil action suits if their firearms were obtained by an unauthorized individual and used to harm or kill themselves or others. 

Alderperson Rob Cantelmo introduced the legislation. 

Councilors agreed to speak with legislators from other municipalities with similar ordinances before voting. The choice to gather more perspective on the ordinance came after committee members deliberated over whether they felt the ordinance would result in improving gun safety in the Ithaca community or not. 

“I think setting the standard of what it means to be a responsible gun owner in the city is not beyond the reasonable scope of what we should be considering,” Cantelmo said in Wednesday’s committee meeting.

He continued and said the law also aims to make it possible for aggrieved parties to pursue “recourse” through a civil suit if an improperly stored firearm results in injury or death. 

But it’s a law that Mayor Laura Lewis questioned whether the city should be pursuing. 

“I have a question about whether this is best residing within city legislation or if it’s best at the state level,” Lewis said. 

She said that the ordinance’s penalties for firearm owners improperly storing their weapons appeared “challenging”  to enforce. She said that when a gun is used illegally, it is already confiscated by police. 

Ithaca Police Department Ted Schwartz participated in Wednesday’s discussion, and told the committee there is already an ordinance that makes it illegal for firearms — and even bows — to be discharged in the city.

“It’s basically a hunting legislation in the city,” Schwartz said. “So either way, we’d probably confiscate the weapon already.”

Alderperson Kris Haines-Sharp said she wondered if the threat of a fine would “impact individual behavior” enough to compel the city’s gun owners to securely store their firearms.

Cantelmo responded that this is the “theory” behind the legislation. 

Cantelmo told the committee he would invite legislators from other municipalities to a discussion of the ordinance at next month’s City Administration Committee meeting. 

Jimmy Jordan is Senior Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn