Gun control

Collins Reintroduces Legislation To Roll Back SAFE Act

From the Morning Memo:

While the New York State Legislature continues to tighten gun laws, Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY-27, is trying again to role back the state’s Secure Ammunition’s and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act Of 2013 at the federal level.

Collins reintroduced his Second Amendment Guarantee Act this week. SAGA would limit a state’s authority to regulate rifles and shotguns.

States would not be allowed to impose regulations more restrictive than those already imposed by Congress. The legislation, first introduced by Collins in July 2017, is in direct response to New York’s wide-reaching package of gun laws.

“Governor Cuomo unjustly took away the Second Amendment rights from law abiding New Yorkers with his so-called SAFE Act,” Collins said. “I have and always will be a  strong supporter of the Second Amendment and my legislation will guarantee that New Yorkers have the rights guaranteed to them in the Constitution.”

The congressman said in stipulating rifles and shotguns have (or don’t have) certain features the SAFE Act violates federal regulations. If passed, SAGA would void state laws in violation and allow courts to award plaintiffs damages from those states.

However, even with a Republican-controlled House, the bill stalled last session after being referred to a subcommittee. Collins faces more obstacles this year.

Democrats have since won back Congress. Even the lawmakers GOP colleagues could potentially be squeamish about passing a bill of which he’s the primary sponsor while he awaits trial on federal insider trading charges.

Erie County DA Won’t Prosecute Provision Of The SAFE ACT

The Erie County District Attorney’s Office will no longer prosecute a provision of the SAFE Act which makes having more than seven rounds of ammunition in a magazine illegal.

District Attorney John Flynn, D, said he recently became aware of a 2015 United States Court of Appeals Second Circuit opinion the provision is unconstitutional. The Second Circuit heard the lawsuit after a federal district court judge in Buffalo made the same ruling in 2012, several months after the New York gun control law was passed.

“I am not doing this because I believe the SAFE Act is good or bad,” Flynn said. “That’s not my role.”

The DA said as a state officer, he is only technically, legally bound by U.S. Supreme Court decisions but he pointed out the nation’s highest court declined to hear the lawsuit. Flynn said it is up to individual DAs to decide whether federal court decisions are “useful and persuasive” and in this case, he decided it was both.

“When it gets to the circuit courts, again one step below the Supreme Court, in layman’s terms, that is very useful and very persuasive,” he said. “So I am very much persuaded by the Second Circuit opinion and as such, I am going to follow their ruling.”

Flynn said right now there are 23 pending cases in which defendants are being prosecuted in connection with the provision and those charges will be dropped.

“Those 23 open cases, they’re not going to have their entire cases dismissed because the overwhelming majority of those 23 cases, they have other gun charges with them,” he said.

The prosecutor admitted, people have pleaded or been found guilty of carrying too many rounds, since 2012. While they can not appeal those verdicts, as they were not technically wrong, Flynn said they could file a 440 motion to present additional facts, and he would consider them on a case-by-case basis.

The ruling does not effect another provision of the SAFE Act which doesn’t allow for a magazine to hold more than ten rounds.

Flynn took office in January 2017.

NY-27 Candidate Said He Wasn’t Invited To Participates In Gun Violence Forum

From the Morning Memo:

This weekend’s student-organized forum on gun violence in the city of Buffalo has garnered attention because Republican Congressman Chris Collins refuses to participate. Collins told WBEN radio the event has been co-opted by activists and would turn into a circus.

However, one Democratic candidate vying to challenge Collins said he was not even extended an invitation to participate. Businessman Nick Stankevich’s campaign said he was told he would not be on the panel due to the “diversity of thought” the organizers are trying to achieve.

Subsequently, he released a statement today indicating he would not appear at the event at all. Stankevich said he believed he would have provided a unique perspective though.

“We have a unique opportunity to come together to create a safer environment for our children and our communities. You deserve multiple viewpoints, especially from our rural communities and from members that live in the 27th District. I wish the students well on a successful event to discuss our necessary reform on guns,” he said.

Rep. Brian Higgins and Nate McMurray, the endorsed Democrat and Stankevich’s primary opponent in NY-27, are both expected to participate on the panel. Last month, Stankevich’s closed-door conversation about gun control with Collins in Washington, D.C. prompted criticism from McMurray who said he should not have accepted the meeting.

NY-27: Dems Respond To Collins’ 2nd Amendment Question

From the Morning Memo:

Western New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins challenged the two Democrats vying to unseat him to tell the public whether they would support the full repeal of the 2nd Amendment. This comes after retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called for the repeal in a New York Times Op-Ed this week.

“The 27th district is one of the most Republican Congressional districts in New York State, with a very pro-2nd Amendment constituency,” Collins campaign spokesman Bryan Piligra said. “At the very least our opponents should let voters know if they support far-left calls to remove our fundamental right to bear arms.”

The campaign said both candidates, current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray and Monroe County businessman Nick Stankevich, attended pro-gun control marches over the weekend and stood with people who support the repeal. Both candidates, however, insisted they don’t actually share those views.

“Give me a break. I’ve never said that once,” McMurray said. “Now I have a question for him: Will he debate me one-on-one before the public so we can have a direct conversation about the 2nd Amendment? Let’s let everyone see exactly where we stand.”

McMurray said he staunchly supports the right to bear arms, but doesn’t think everybody – for instance, people with mental illness or criminals – should have easy access to firearms.

Stankevich expressed the same sentiment in his statement, saying Collins is out of touch politician who is refusing to represent the interest of the district by protecting children.

“On Saturday, I marched with my neighbors and friends for tighter guns laws and regulations,” Stankevich said. “Our neighbors who follow the law deserve freedom to protect their families, and our children deserve the freedom to go to school without fearing for their lives. Collins’ extremist views are not only offensive but also dangerous. Mr. Collins would rather continue to be bought for his inaction.”

Stankevich and McMurray plan to participate in a student forum on guns on April 7. According to the Buffalo News, Collins’ office declined an invitation saying “radical partisans” have co-opted the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida to score political points.

Higgins Calls For Congressional Gun Control Hearings ASAP

From the Morning Memo:

The March for our Lives and corresponding protests across the country this weekend garnered a lot of attention. Count Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, among those who was impressed by the showing.

“I think we’ve reached a tipping point; I really do,” he said. “These young voices, they need to be heard.”

The Buffalo Democrat said it is Congress’ responsibility to react to the movement and take action, though he’s not yet certain what that action should be.

Higgins called on his colleagues to immediately undertake hearings and gather testimony from experts who deal with gun violence regularly.

“Everybody has an opinion about this,” he said. “This is not my area of expertise. I’ll be truthful with you and I don’t know that there are a lot of members of Congress that have that level of expertise. There are certainly people out there.”

Higgins said he particularly wants to hear from members of law enforcement, because they deal with gun violence regularly, and lawmakers have yet to have police agencies talk about the approach they feel would best solve the current issues.

“I think this requires the input of police,” the congressman said. “Our police are outgunned. Most policing agencies, they’re more conservative in their approach but they agree that assault rifles, assault weapons should be banned by and large because they’re on the streets dealing with this.”

Higgins said he is not looking to villainize anybody, particularly legitimate, responsible gun owners. But he also feels there needs to be a common sense recognition that some people shouldn’t have guns. He also believes how Congress chooses to react or not react at this potentially crucial moment in history will have a profound influence on the mid-term elections.

Erie County Legislators Ask For Pistol Permit Recertification Extension

The Republican minority in the Erie County Legislature introduced a resolution Wednesday, asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, to extend the deadline for gun owners to recertify their pistol permits. Under the SAFE Act, anybody with a permit that is five years old or more is required to recertify by January 31.

County legislators said as of the beginning of the month, only 21,549 of roughly 50,000 affected Erie County permits had been renewed.

“Because of the volume of permits to be renewed, additional time is needed to allow everyone the opportunity to fulfill this NYS requirement. The residents of Erie County deserve ample time to accomplish this,”  Legislator John Mills said.

In the meantime, they said they’ve organized a series of recertification outreaches with the County Clerk’s office to help permit holders through the process. Legislator Ed Rath said many people are just learning about the requirement.

“We shouldn’t be punishing lawful firearm owners,” he said. “This is a request for an extension so that people have more time to go through the appropriate recertification process. I hope Governor Cuomo will listen to the elected officials and residents from across the state who’ve asked for more time to make sure everyone gets properly recertified.”

State Assemblyman David DiPietro, R-East Aurora, introduced legislation Tuesday to extend the deadline for at least six months to a year. He was not particularly optimistic about its chance of passage.

Miner: Loose Gun Laws In Other States Impact NY

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner on Wednesday said the state’s gun control laws do little prevent illegal weapons flowing into New York.

“The reality is we do have very strict gun control laws, but all around us we’re surrounding by states that don’t,” she told reporters in Syracuse on Wednesday at a promotions ceremony for law enforcement.

Miner’s comments come several days after a man killed 58 people, and himself, in a mass shooting in Las Vegas. Her comments are similar to the stance Gov. Andrew Cuomo has held that New York’s gun laws — including the SAFE Act — can’t regulate firearms in other states, leading to a need for federal legislation, he has argued.

Miner is considering a potential challenge to Cuomo in a Democratic primary next year.

“They’re most often coming from places that don’t have strict gun control laws,” she added. “Just having New York state having a strong law is not going to help. This is an issue of people bringing guns back and forth across state borders all the time.”

Slaughter Opposed To Collins SAFE Act Repeal Bill

From the Morning Memo:

Veteran Rep. Louise Slaughter isnt’t giving much consideration to her colleague Chris Collins’s plan to repeal a portion of New York’s SAFE Act through federal legislation.

“I would be extremely surprised to see any action on that in Washington,” she told reporters Tuesday in Rochester.

Even if the bill, which would negate shotgun and rifle requirements for hunters, did gain support in the U.S. House, Slaughter is convinced it wouldn’t pass Constitutional muster with regards to the Tenth Amendment.

“I know the SAFE Act has withstood several constitutional questions in state courts. It is a state law and no matter what Collins wants to do, he cannot amend that state law or do away with it,” she said.

Slaughter made a point to say she grew up with a family of hunters in Kentucky. She said she has no intention of “taking anybody’s guns away” but has concerns about the bill opening the door for Congress to pass detrimental legislation that leads to unfit people ending up with guns in their hands. She said she doesn’t believe the House would do that.

“When you’re afraid that your children go to school in the morning, you may not see them again, or if your family goes to an event of some sort, that some awful thing will happen to them, we don’t need to live like that,” she said.

Congressional Candidate Counters Campaign Claims With Photos

plumb-gunThe John Plumb for Congress campaign is responding with visual aides to claims the candidate is not an advocate for gun rights. Thursday, Rep. Tom Reed, R-NY 23rd District, attacked the Democrat Plumb for failing to fill out the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund’s candidate questionnaire.

When I reached out to the Navy Reserve commander’s campaign spokesperson, he immediately sent me a photo of Plumb in hunting garb holding a camouflage shotgun.

“Does this photo, of someone who has been in the military for 20-plus years, look like they don’t support the Second Amendment?” communications director Samuel Newton asked.

Newton eventually got back to me with a written statement from the candidate and two more photos of Plumb firing a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun.

“I grew up here in the Southern Tier, and I’m a proud hunter and lifelong military man. I will defend the right of responsible New Yorkers to own guns, which is Constitutionally guaranteed and part of our way of life,” Plumb said.

He went on to say that Reed is intentionally misleading voters and falsely attributed a made-up quote to him at the Yates County SCOPE (Shooters Committee On Political Education) pig roast this summer.

Schneiderman: ‘In Orlando, A Bad Guy Got The Gun Because They Have Lax Laws.’

In Buffalo Thursday, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, D, pointed to the Orlando, Fla. mass shooting as an example of exactly why New York state passed the SAFE Act. He said the AR-15, gunman Omar Mateen bought legally in Florida and used to murder dozens of people, can’t be purchased in New York.

“In Orlando a bad guy got the gun because they have lax laws.” he said.

Schneiderman held the press conference just days after announcing the largest gun bust in the state since the gun control legislation was passed in 2013. He said state police have seized the majority of more than 100 illegal guns sold by a Rochester-area gun shop.

“We don’t know how many lives we’ve saved by getting these guns off the streets but we know that we’ll do everything that we possibly can in my office, working with our colleagues in government to ensure that nothing like Orlando happens in the state of New York,” he said.

The main defendant is former shop owner Kordell Jackson, who has been an outspoken critic of the SAFE Act. Jackson closed his shop in January 2015 because he said the legislation was too restrictive for his business to continue to be viable in New York.

At his court appearance Tuesday, Jackson’s attorney said the law was not intended to target people like his client.

“I think no one ever contemplated that someone who was licensed by the ATF, monitored by the state, who had over half of his customers law enforcement, either active or retired law enforcement people purchasing from him, would be in a situation like this now,” defense attorney Paul Ciminelli said.

“These people feigned ignorance,” Schneiderman said. “They said, well we’re confused by the SAFE Act but then witnesses were able to report that they knew in great detail what the SAFE Act required, what features of guns had to be changed before they could be sold.”

While applauding his state partners, the AG also criticized the federal government for making his life harder. He said because federal laws are weak, illegal guns are bought in other states and brought into New York.

“This really is a problem where our federal government is worse than the American people deserve,” he said.