Councilmen Oppose City Gun Resolution
By ROSS BARKAN
While most City legislators have taken aim at protecting the City’s stringent gun laws, two Queens councilmen have put more lax gun laws in their sights.
Queens Councilmen Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and rising GOP star Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) have joined Staten Island Republicans Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo to oppose a Council resolution that voiced its displeasure with a bill approved in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.
The bill would allow a resident of one state who has a license to carry a concealed handgun to carry that gun in a different state, regardless of individual state law. State gun-control laws vary widely, and New York State, particularly New York City, has among the toughest gun-ownership restrictions in the country.
The Council voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution opposing H.R. 822, known as the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011. The resolution urges the Senate and President Barack Obama to block the legislation. Yet beyond a near unanimous disapproval of the House’s bill are a range of differing opinions about the efficacy of the City’s gun laws. The issue is far from clear-cut, despite party affiliation and voting numbers, and the individual who might represent this most is Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria).
“We are way too strict for people who have a valid out of state carry permit and no criminal background,” said Vallone, who is the chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee. “I do think we should fix our laws in New York, but not be told by the federal government what to do.”
Vallone authored an opinion piece in the Jan. 4 edition of the New York Post that advocated reform for the City’s gun laws related specifically to those from out-of-state visiting the City. Referring to Meredith Graves, a Tennessean who tried to check her legal gun with security at Ground Zero and was then arrested, Vallone argued that City laws persecute law-abiding individuals not from New York who do not know the law and do not intend to commit any crime.
All gun permits must be approved by the NYPD and factors that may prevent an individual from getting a permit include any past criminal history, DUI or DWI convictions, or a failure to answer Dept. of Motor Vehicles summonses.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made gun-control a centerpiece of his agenda, founding a national coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In 2009, his coalition out-lobbied the formidable National Rifle Association, helping to get a bill very similar to H.R. 822 defeated in the Senate. An MAIG petition garnered more than 65,000 signatures.
“This is an issue the Mayor has been working on for years,” said Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for Bloomberg.
And Halloran, never shy about bashing the mayor, said he doesn’t care.
“I see it as a constitutional issue, first and foremost,” Halloran said. “The problem is states have created uneven standards. It’s a difficult legal issue, and I recognize there are states’ rights issues, but a constitutional paradigm trumps the state’s rights argument.”
But Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) said he has little tolerance for those who want to weaken New York’s gun laws in anyway. Lancman, proud to flex his gun-control credentials, recently attacked U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village) for not openly supporting the Fix Gun Checks Act, a piece of federal legislation that would ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system. It would also require a background check for every firearm sale.
“There’s no question that reducing the amount of guns that are on a street will reduce the number of gun crimes,” Lancman said. “It’s common sense.”
Reach Reporter Ross Barkan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127.