Gun control bill fails in Senate; Hudson Valley response mixed

In this photo made with a fisheye lens,

In this photo made with a fisheye lens, five used military-style rifles are all that is available in the rack that usually has more than 20 new models for sale at Duke's Sport Shop in New Castle, Pa. (Jan. 15, 2013) (Credit: AP)

To gun rights advocates in the Hudson Valley, Wednesday's Senate vote against expanded background checks was a sign that emotions were starting to subside after the December rampage in Newtown.

In the more than four months since a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., gun owners have maintained that strict new gun control measures -- like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's NY SAFE Act -- were ill-advised, knee-jerk responses based on emotion, or worse, political opportunism designed to appeal to national voters.

If there was a moment for political opportunism based on gun control, they said, Wednesday's defeat of the Toomey-Manchin amendment showed that time is over.


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"If you look at the issue from a purely political standpoint, the public doesn't like this. They have no desire for any of this," said Jacob Riper of Pine Plains, who serves as vice president of legislative affairs for the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. "Going down in flames in Congress, that's something I suspected."

'INSULTING TO VICTIMS'

Gun control advocates expressed outrage after the vote, in which a handful of Democrats joined Republicans in a vote that ended up 54 to 46 in favor of the deal, which would have required background check requirements for online gun purchases and gun shows. Because of procedural steps agreed to by both parties, all amendments considered Wednesday required at least 60 votes to pass in the 100-member chamber.

The vote was "a stain on the reputation of the U.S. Senate, and insulting to the victims and survivors of gun violence nationwide," the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence wrote in a statement Wednesday.

"The American people demanded action to curb the scourge of gun violence," New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted, "and we let them down today."

Thomas Sanfratello, a Rockland County gun owner, said he doesn't see it that way. Wednesday's vote, he said, proved "there's at least a majority [in the Senate] who believe in what this country stands for."

"When they took office, they took an oath," Sanfratello said. "That oath was for them to stand by the people and do what the people want, not what they want, and also to protect and follow the Constitution, not to try and change it without the people's approval."

SOME GUN OWNERS CLAIM VICTORY

On a Facebook page devoted to Westchester County gun owners, talk that usually centers on local issues -- like the months-long wait to receive a pistol permit -- turned to the national vote. "Victory by a hair ..." one user wrote.

Lawmakers in support of the bill were using it as a first step toward a national gun registry, said Scott Sommavilla, president of the Westchester County Firearm Owners Association. In the days leading up to Wednesday's vote, that was the sentiment among gun-rights advocates and several GOP senators, who said they worried about how the information from background checks would be used.

"They wanted a list, and I think that's what really killed it," Sommavilla said. "They were just loading the bill up."

Gun control advocates said they wouldn't allow the defeat of the Toomey-Manchin deal to derail their long-term goals. The Brady Center to Reduce Gun Violence, in a statement, vowed to continue efforts to lobby lawmakers and to push voters to abandon senators who voted against Toomey-Manchin.

"That we have come this far only strengthens our resolve to make the American public heard until we can make the Congress listen," the group said. "And we will work to make sure that those senators who refuse to represent the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans on this crucial issue are replaced with others who will."

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