Press-Republican

January 16, 2013

North Country leaders nix gun law

By FELICIA KRIEG
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — New York now has the strictest gun laws in the country, but without the vote of North Country representatives. 

Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury), Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) all voted against the NY Secure Firearms and Ammunition Enforcement (SAFE) Act of 2013 that passed in the Senate Monday night then the Assembly on Tuesday, followed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

Little and Stec called the legislation, which passed 104-43, premature, without enough discussion dedicated to all aspects of the issue. 

Little acknowledged the complexity of the issue of gun control. 

“I respect the differing points of view and feel that more time would have been helpful in understanding the impact on those who hunt, target shoot are collectors or have a firearm for personal protection,” she said in a statement.

The vast majority of constituents who contacted her office opposed the proposed law, Little said.

“I think we should have taken more time to consider the impact of the legislation on those who have been and would continue to be lawful in their ownership and use of firearms.”

’GOES WAY TOO FAR’

The legislation, proposed following the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., and then the shooting deaths of two firefighters in Webster in Western New York, makes the Empire State the first in the United States to completely ban all pre-1994 high-capacity magazines and any magazine that holds more than seven rounds. 

The magazine-capacity limit was previously 10 rounds.

The Senate version of the SAFE Act states it “will protect New Yorkers by reducing the availability of assault weapons and deterring the criminal use of firearms while promoting a fair, consistent and efficient method of ensuring that sportsmen and other legal gun owners have full enjoyment of the guns to which they are entitled.”

But Peter Visconti, president of the Plattsburgh Rod and Gun Club, said that’s not the case.

“It still goes way too far,” he said. “It affects 22-caliber target rifles.”

Cuomo had previously said the law wouldn’t impact hunters and sportsmen, but it clearly poses increased and unnecessary restrictions on them, Visconti said.

“A lot of local people are upset about this.”

’PRICEY BACKGROUND CHECKS’

Visconti takes part in shooting competitions, including the Empire State Games, and the new law will make it more difficult and more expensive for him to practice, he said.

Also, he said, buying a gun is going to be more pricey now, too. Background-check fees at dealers add up, he said.

Something as simple as taking a Boy Scout troop out for a target practice could come at a large financial cost, he said.

“I’m very upset. I’m disappointed in anyone that voted for this,” Visconti said.

’WON’T END VIOLENCE’

Sister Debbie Blow of Plattsburgh is one local resident who is in favor of stricter gun laws, such as the one signed into law Tuesday.

However, she said, “I think it’s very difficult, because it’s such a multi-faceted issue.”

Blow, a Dominican Sister of Hope who is executive director of Plattsburgh-based humanitarian aid group North Country Mission of Hope, learned something important early in her religious studies, she said.

“There’s never been a weapon created that wasn’t ultimately used.”

While she supports stricter gun laws, they won’t solve the problem of gun violence, Blow said.

“We are appalled at what happens in our theaters and our schools, but it doesn’t start there. Unfortunately, it ends there.”

’SERVICES LACKING’

Lawmakers have not not adequately addressed the kind of severe mental illness in the United States that can be associated with such violence, Blow said, or provided the needed services.

And many people don’t have a problem with young people playing with violence-themed toys or video games, she said, noting that no toy guns or playthings of the sort are sent to the Nicaraguan children the Mission of Hope serves.

“I think anything that will foster protection for not only our young ... but all of our society is essential.”

Little applauded the portions of the bill that would require people with mental illness “who may post a threat to themselves or others” to get treatment. 

This is “not only important in light of the recent tragedies but is good public policy,” she said.

The law also increases penalties for illegal gun use, which, according to Little, accounts for 70 percent of all gun crimes. She was in favor of that part of the legislation, she said.

‘RESTRICTS RIGHTS’

A statement from Stec pointed to the “lack of time for both legislators and the public to read the particulars of the legislation.”

“The bill that passed the Assembly (Tuesday) is a slap in the face to legal, responsible gun owners,” he said. 

Stec supports certain parts of the legislation including the increased penalties for illegal firearm usage and measures to protect fire

responders.

“However, I cannot support a bill where large parts severely restrict the constitutional rights of our sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts and ignores overwhelming information that shows restricting access to firearms is not a solution to solving gun violence in our communities,” Stec said.

Following the tragedies in Newtown and Webster, he said, there must be a discussion about gun violence that addresses improved mental-health treatment and “the content of our popular culture.” 

But, he said, “it’s a disservice to victims of gun violence that the bill hastily presented (Tuesday) missed the mark and avoided that important discussion in favor of political theater.”

’TO PROTECT PEOPLE’

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who sponsored the bill in the Assembly, called its passage “an impressive start to the 2013 legislative session.”

“No civilian needs or should be able to purchase an assault weapon intended to kill as many human beings as swiftly as possible. Let us be perfectly clear — this bill is about protecting people,” he said in a press release.

Silver said there are still some unanswered questions answers about our “culture of violence” that need to be addressed.

“But we have taken a critical step forward ... — a step we owe to the victims of Newtown, Webster and in communities everywhere.”

Email Felicia Krieg:

fkrieg@pressrepublican.com

The Press-Republican asked our Facebook followers Tuesday what they think of stricter gun laws. Here are some of their comments: Chad Baker: "I've never been more proud to live in this state than I am today." Wayne Seeley: "I agree totally that making gun controls more restrictive will NOT solve the problem. If someone is dead set on pulling another Newtown or Columbine, they are going to do it. We need to enforce the laws we already have." Beth Klaser: "Criminals do not purchase their guns legally. So, new york, what do you suggest now? Oh, I know. Lets break down every americans door and take their guns away. I don't want to live on this planet anymore." Ken Showalter: "It's always tough reeling something in that has been out of control for a long time. Glad to be a New Yorker." Nikki Edwards: "I am all for tougher gun control, however, I feel like it could cause more problems. While I think that we should follow "right to bear arms," there should definitely be strict rules and regulations set forth for that. I think that when they do increase regulations, we will see an increase in illegal sales of guns..." Find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pressrepublican.