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Revisiting guns

by Ron Holdraker
December 4, 2021

After the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, many news organizations ran stories about assault weapons, explaining their varying definitions and presenting varying opinions about whether they should be banned again at the federal level.

I’ll start out with NY SAFE Act. 

The NY SAFE Act prevents criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying guns, cracks down on illegal guns and bans only the most dangerous assault weapons.

Gun laws in New York are supposed to regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the U.S. state of New York, outside of New York City which has separate licensing regulations. These regulations are relatively strict in comparison to the rest of the United States.

The NY SAFE Act legislation includes provisions that protect and preserve law-abiding citizens’ right to bear arms and does not restrict New Yorkers’ ability to buy, sell, keep or use guns.

There were/are legitimate claims that the NY SAFE Act was a knee jerk reaction to numerous public shootings, but it started to straighten out since its passing in 1993.

Those unfamiliar with New York’s most recent foray into gun control and bad governance, here is a brief look. After several days of closed-door meetings and deal making, on Jan. 14th 2013, Gov. Cuomo sprung the SAFE Act bill on the State Senate only twenty minutes before a scheduled vote. The Senate passed the measure, the House approved it the following day and Cuomo signed it immediately. It was easy,  since Democrats controlled the houses at the time. 

To bypass any legislative debate, Cuomo invoked a “message of necessity,” eliminating the three-day waiting period before legislation may receive a vote, as required by the state constitution. Of course, this set just about every gun owner/seller into a tizzy, one that continues to this day. 

How many rounds in a guns’ magazine? What is an assault rifle?

The term assault weapon is used in the United States to define some types of firearms. The definition varies among regulating jurisdictions, but usually includes semi-automatic firearms with a detachable magazine, a pistol grip, and sometimes other features such as a vertical forward grip, flash suppressor or barrel shroud.

Bottom line, it depends on where you live.

In New York, magazine size is limited to 10 rounds. Law enforcement and retired law enforcement with last service weapon only, are exempt from the 10 round limit. Also exempt are antique high-quality magazines if registered to an associated antique assault weapon. Under the NY SAFE Act (signed on the 15th of January, 2013 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo) the magazine law was changed. A legal provision that mandated no more than 7 rounds that may be loaded into the magazine was struck down by a federal judge on December 31, 2013. Lawsuits followed and language somewhat cleaned up in the law, but still advocates wanted no part of gun restrictions.

Handgun regulation was primary in the legislation, rifles not. But then comes the question: What type of gun is used in most mass killings?

In addition, questions surfaced about just how effective the new laws would hamper mass shootings. Would the NY SAFE Act actually stop loonies from going bonkers at work, in schools, at shopping centers?

What about concealed/open carrying guns? The law is extremely vague on open carry. Open carry in public is not legal in most instances. While no law specifically bans open carry, a license to carry is issued to carry concealed as per penal law 400. Therefore, pistol permit holders must carry concealed. Open carry permitted while hunting and possibly on one’s own property. Open carry of unloaded long guns is not explicitly prohibited by any law, but is generally not practiced. It is illegal to transport a loaded long gun in a motor vehicle, except in some scenarios while hunting.

Possession of assault weapons is prohibited, except for those legally possessed on January 15, 2013 and registered with the state by January 15, 2014 or classified as an antique assault weapon. New York City, Buffalo, Albany, and Rochester have enacted their own assault weapon bans. Places such as Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and most notably New York City have put in more restrictive gun laws, such as licensing of long guns and 5-round magazine limits. Law enforcement and retired law enforcement are exempt from the assault weapons ban.

Boom, Bang!

Ownership of machine guns, suppressors, short-barreled rifles, AOW’s (Any Other Weapon) and short-barreled shotguns are prohibited to the average citizen. Destructive devices are permitted except for rockets with greater than 3 ounces of propellant, which are prohibited. AOW’s disguised as non-firearms are illegal.

For firearm transfers between private parties, a licensed dealer must conduct a background check, provide documentation of the check to the New York State Police, and keep a record of the transaction.

Family members, school officials or law enforcement can ASK courts to temporarily block someone from buying or owning a gun. 

The real fear swirling around gun ownership is just how far can laws go before the Second Amendment is breached? 

Then comes the more recent plague of Ghost Guns. Ghost guns are unserialized and untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home. They are often sold through “ghost gun kits,” which include all of the parts and often the equipment necessary to build these weapons at home. These kits are widely available and can be purchased by anyone, including prohibited purchasers, domestic abusers, and gun traffickers — without a background check. As these kits and guns are sold at gun shows and online every day throughout the country, they undermine all of the life-saving policies that state legislatures have fought so hard to put in place.

This criteria and lack of federal regulation is exactly why ghost guns are a growing weapon of choice among people who are legally prohibited from buying guns Then comes the problem of varying state laws.

Less formalized gun sales in southern states also allows for the illegal importation of guns into NYS. Believe it, or not, New York State has one of the nation’s lowest legal gun ownership rates, but Rochester is headed for the highest murder rate ever.

Meanwhile those TV preachers and politicians call for the end of gun violence. 

We can argue all we want, march, hold prayer meetings, debate the Second Amendment till the cows come home, but people are dying at alarming rates. Mass shootings continue, regardless of laws. 

The Right says too much, the Left, not enough. There simply is no satisfying solution. Neither side has the answer.

Across all suicide attempts not involving a firearm, hanging, overdose, drowning, 4 percent result in death. But for gun suicide, those statistics are flipped: Approximately 90 percent of gun suicide attempts end in death.

A study found that Men who owned handguns were eight times more likely than men who didn’t to die of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Women who owned handguns were more than 35 times more likely than women who didn’t to kill themselves with a gun.

There were 24,432 gun suicides in the United States in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three-quarters of them involved handguns. 62% of U.S. gun deaths are suicides. These numbers do not make headlines like mass shootings, but we lead the whole world in this category.

Remember the slogan: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people?

In addition to suicides, the statistics showed 14,542 of the gun deaths (37.4%)  were murders, and 486 were accidental (1.2%).

Suicide attempts are often impulsive acts, driven by transient life crises, or long term depression. Some are well-planned exits from life. Ironically, so are mass shootings.

As of May 26, 39 people were killed in mass shootings in the United States in 2021. A total of 996 victims were fatally injured during mass shootings in the United States between 1982 and May 26, 2021.

Unfortunately, those numbers are not in decline and it takes only one mass killers to inflate a single year’s numbers.

No, we don’t have the car bomb numbers of the Middle East. We don’t have wild scenarios with armies and quasi-armies killing sporadically walking down the street unabated, carrying, firing into the air.  We  prefer a more personal approach.

The U.S. has the second Amendment, we have more freedoms under a Democracy that anywhere in the world, yet we are shooting like there is no tomorrow. The arguments will continue

 Civilization at its best!

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