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Gun Control Debate Picks Up Steam

8:11 PM, Dec 17, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY - The same rhetoric has been heard on the topic of gun control for decades.

But if there is any certainty in the wake of the mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut in which 27 people, including 20 children, were killed, it is perhaps only that the debate has reached new heights.

"I believe on some issues, to an extent, you can create public will," said NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, who on Friday (before even the first body had been removed from the school) was already calling for a "crackdown" on guns.

Cuomo repeated that stance at a news conference at the state capitol on Monday, but also stated that any meaningful reform to gun laws has to come from the federal government.

"Right now our (New York State) laws are some of the toughest in the nation, but in some ways it's to no avail because people can buy a gun somewhere else, and drive it in (to New York)," said Cuomo. "So a federal law would make the most dramatic effect."

"I support the second amendment by in large," said US Rep Brian Higgins (D-NY 27th). "But, when it comes to assault rifles, there's no technology that advances more quickly in our society, than the technology of killing and these are domestic weapons of mass destruction."

"Timothy McVeigh killed 160 people and never fired a shot," replied Harold "Budd" Schroeder, Chairman of Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE).

While noting that McVeigh used fertilizer as a weapon to destroy the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995, Schroeder also recalled that the 911 terrorists used box cutters and domestic aircraft to kill thousands more.

"You can't outlaw crazy...so how does taking away my constitutional right, or infringing on it, make a better person out of a criminal?" he asked. "When they say we need more gun control, politicians like this because it's a slogan ...even if it doesn't work. If it sounds good and if it's picked up by the media, and if it picks up momentum, that's a train they want to hop onto."

Though the rhetoric may be the same, this mass tragedy-involving children, may have been enough to change some minds.

Even Joe Manchin, the pro-gun-rights West Virginia senator who drew attention for running a commercial that showed him firing a rifle at an environmental bill, now says "everything needs to be on the table."

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and other Senate Democrats called Monday for a national discussion on gun violence.

In speeches delivered on the Senate floor, the lawmakers said that discussion could avoid the usual gridlock over Second Amendment rights.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a gun rights advocate, said the process of healing after Friday's mass shooting "will require Congress to examine what can be done to prevent more tragedies.'' He called on the nation to engage in "a meaningful conversation and thoughtful debate about how to change laws and culture that allow violence to grow.''

It's unlikely Congress will consider gun legislation during the current lame-duck session. It is working on a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect in January as well as a $60.4 billion emergency aid request for victims of Superstorm Sandy and other pressing items.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, promised his committee will conduct "a full and thorough'' examination of the issue of gun violence early in the next Congress.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama doesn't think any single piece of legislation can solve the problem.
"It's a complex problem that will require a complex solution,'' Carney said, adding that he did not have a specific agenda to announce.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., authored op-ed pieces Monday advocating gun safety legislation.
Gillibrand wrote in the New York Daily News that "supporting the Second Amendment and reducing gun violence are compatible and consistent.'' She was endorsed by the National Rifle Association when she served in the House. Since arriving in the Senate, she has taken up the cause of reducing gun violence. Gillibrand promised to reintroduce the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act. The House version is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of Long Island.

In his piece in the Chicago Tribune, Durbin advocated banning sales of weapons "that are strictly military and have no useful purpose in sport, hunting or self-defense,'' referring assault guns that the federal government banned from 1994 through 2004.
Durbin also supports banning ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds and limiting individual firearm purchases to two a month.
Schumer, an author of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act requiring background checks for gun purchases, said the time has come for gun safety advocates and Second Amendment supporters to end their gridlock.

"We have to realize there are large parts of the country for which guns are a way of life,'' Schumer said, speaking as a gun safety supporter. But Second Amendment supporters must understand their gun rights are not absolute, Schumer said.  "I believe you can be both pro-gun and pro-gun-safety, just as you can be both pro-free-speech and anti-child pornography,'' he said.

"I'm a firm believer in second amendment rights ," said NYS Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) , who added that he would be more inclined to support measures to beef up security at schools, like funding for resource officers, which many districts eliminated due to budget cuts.

He's not alone.

"In my opinion, that's probably the only thing that could make a difference, is having a police officer on location, all the time," said Captain Gregory Savage, who commands the Erie County Sheriff's Department SWAT team.

And if cops can't be spared from the streets to be in the schools, Grisanti suggests there are others, highly trained in both use of weapons and the response to threats ...seasoned by experience, and in many cases, looking for jobs.

"Veterans who are actually coming back from service that are trained and have the knowledge and the skill to use weapons and to possibly teach or to become possibly become a security guard in a school," Grisanti suggested.

This story includes reporting from Brian Tumulty, Gannett Washington Bureau.

Click on the video player to watch our report from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Norm Fisher.

Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMckinley2

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com, Gannett News Service

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