The campaign of Noam Bramson, the Democratic challenger in this year’s race for Westchester county executive, is criticizing Republican County Executive Rob Astorino for comments on guns he made at a recent forum in Peekskill.
Astorino said only Congress should decide on a ban on assault weapons and that a limit on magazine capacity wouldn’t have any effect. He also criticized The Journal News for posting a map of pistol permit holders.
The SAFE Act, passed by the New York State Legislature in January, limited magazines to seven rounds, banned the sale of certain assault rifles and semi-automatic guns and required existing ones to be registered with the state.
“As a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, I strongly support common sense gun safety measures, including a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks,” said Bramson, the mayor of New Rochelle. “Unfortunately, Mr. Astorino lines up with the gun lobby and the Tea Party, instead of standing with the overwhelming majority of Westchester residents.”
Astorino’s campaign spokesman, Bill O’Reilly dismissed the criticism.
“The Bramson campaign has been following the County Executive around with a camera for months and that’s what it comes up with?,” he said. “That’s pretty sad. The fact of the matter is that County Executive Astorino is correct; issues like that are decided at the federal level. Instead of taking clumsy potshots, Mr. Bramson might want to look into the enormously successful Safer Communities Initiative that Mr. Astorino put together to better protect Westchester kids in the wake of Sandy Hook.”
Barry Caro, Bramson’s campaign spokesman, added: “If we adopted Rob’s preferred policy, the vast majority of New York’s gun laws would no longer exist. At a time when Congress can’t even agree on universal background checks, the last thing we should consider doing is ceding all control over our public safety to Washington. Our regional and state leaders should act like leaders – not pass the buck to Washington, knowing full well it won’t act.”
At a press conference after the SAFE Act was passed, Astorino spoke more positively about it. He said he supported tightening the system of background checks for people with mental illness and the closing of gun show loopholes. But he said there was little difference between a 10-bullet clip and a seven-bullet clip.
Here’s a transcript of the discussion from July 1 at the Mount Olivet Baptist Church. A link to the video is here:
Question: Ok, I’m glad you brought up Newton, it’s very important. The two biggest components of the New York SAFE Act were certain bans on assault weapons and a stricter limit on magazine size. Do you believe in a ban on assault weapons at either the federal or state levels, and what do you believe is an appropriate limit for a magazine size?
Astorino: A couple things, first of all what I think is the worst thing that happened during all of this was that the Journal News published names of legal pistol permit holders. They put a lot of people, I don’t care what they say, they put a lot of people at risk including women of domestic violence; they put law enforcement current and retired, judges, and they put just every day people; whether they had, it was a household with a legal gun or a household without. They basically outed people left and right on something that should not have been done in my estimation. That was a mistake. [applause] I am getting to your question.
Q: Can you give me of an example of where that outing actually had any effect?
A: Can you give me an example where it didn’t?
Q: Yeah, because there is no evidence that it affected anybody.
A: The list is still out there for anybody who has it and I think it was just a data dump by the Journal News because they could.
Q: We have different opinions on this. Let’s get back to my question.
A: To answer your question, the assault rifles, that is something that Congress and only Congress should be dealing with and they can’t even agree, Democrats and Republicans in the United States of America, on what should or shouldn’t be done.
As far as the magazines, when I talked about the SAFE Act before, one of the things on December 14th was, or December 15th I should say, a lot of people, politicians especially, wanted to just jump up and say we’ve got to do something, so let’s just do something now for a headline. That had little if any effect whatsoever, other than a headline. And what we said was we’re going to think this through, we are either going to do something that will make a difference now and in the future, or we don’t do anything at all.
We took our time and it wasn’t until February where we had all of the law enforcement and schools in one room. And it wasn’t until April where we had the mental health community in the same room, and out of that came some real discussions and some real advances for our communities that I believe will make our schools and communities safer.
If you’re asking me specifically do I think that a criminal is going to sit there and count the number of bullets because Governor Cuomo said I can’t have more than seven, the answer is no. I don’t think that it is going to have any affect whatsoever, on ether an insane person or just a bad person. I don’t think they are going to count how many bullets are in their gun when they leave the house because they are told not to.