Gun enthusiasts predictably incensed by new legislation

Nicholas Markantes of Washington Township, N.J., fires an Nicholas Markantes of Washington Township, N.J., fires an AR-15 at The Firing-Line gun shop and indoor range in Pearl River. (Jan. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Xavier Mascarenas

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Rockland County gun owners and pro-gun officials are up in arms over the new gun control law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday afternoon.

"I think it's pure garbage. It's political pandering," Rockland County Legis. Frank Sparaco (R-Valley Cottage) told Newsday. "I'm extremely disappointed in the Republican Senate, who have turned out to be the most useless bunch in the Senate's history.

"People like myself have spent a lot of time, money, sweat and tears to keep control of the Senate, only to be betrayed by cowards and a bunch of dimwits who have never owned a gun or held one before," Sparaco added. "These are the morons and dweebs who have been elected and have now stripped us of our Constitution."

The outpouring of vitriol comes on the heels of a rush to buy weapons of the type banned in the new legislation. Gun shops in Rockland are sold out of such weapons and still are receiving dozens of inquiries from potential buyers.

Robert "Ziggy" Ziegler, 71, who has owned Stony Point Tool & Firearms for the past three decades, said sales of AK-47s, AR-15s and Mossberg shotguns with pistol grips have quadrupled in the past few weeks.

The new legislation not only bans many assault-style weapons but restricts the availability of large ammunition magazines -- limiting cartridge capacity to seven, down from the current limit of 10 cartridges in a clip -- while also requiring mental health professionals to report patients who may pose a danger to the community.

"People like to shoot 20, 40 rounds at a time, but that's not the problem," Ziegler said. "We must keep track of the people that are not well in the mind."

The sweeping legislation does not require owners of assault-style weapons to turn them in, but it does require that the weapons be registered with the state. New Yorkers will have to undergo background checks on purchases. Automated alerts will be sent out whenever a high-volume purchase of ammunition is made.

Many saw the legislation in political terms. At The Firing-Line, a shooting range in Pearl River, a firearms instructor hesitated to give his last name, identifying himself only as Fred and describing himself as a 70-year-old retired New York City police officer.

"This is history. It's undeniable but nobody sees it," the retired cop said. "The Constitution was not about duck hunting or deer hunting; it was about seeing to it that no government should become as oppressive as the British were to the colonists.

"Firearms, to me, represent personal protection, family protection. Once they have effectively disarmed the American public, they can do anything they want," he said.

State Sen. David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Orange) voted in favor of the bill.

"This legislation is a strong bipartisan response to the issues that we've been dealing with in the state and across the country when it comes to gun violence," Carlucci told Newsday. "We cracked down on illegal guns, strengthened the mental health laws, and we protect the legal gun owner's privacy."

Although Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef wouldn't comment on the expanded weapons ban, he said was "pleased" that the bill will now make personal information of gun permit holders private.

Vanderhoef referred to recent controversy over an interactive map published by The Journal News, a newspaper based in Westchester County. The map provided the names and addresses of 44,000 gun permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties. Officials in Putnam County have refused to give the newspaper their residents' personal information, and more than a few public officials have called for removal of the map from the Internet, suggesting it gives criminals information about law-abiding gun owners -- many of whom are law officers.

"It caused tremendous anxiety and it served no purpose to pinpoint someone who's gone through a legal process to obtain a firearm," said Vanderhoef's spokesman, Ron Levine. "We've never been concerned about that before, and the only time this came to light is when a newspaper thought it would serve some value to have a spotlight on these people."

The new law also increased penalties for criminal use of guns in certain circumstances. It mandates a sentence of life without parole for anyone convicted of shooting a first responder to death -- a provision related to the shooting deaths of two firefighters in upstate Webster in December. Possession of a firearm on school grounds or on a school bus will be treated as a felony, not a misdemeanor.

Sparaco scoffed at the last provision.

"I don't see any reason why I can't be carrying my gun when I drop off my kids at school," Sparaco said. "It's ridiculous."

The National Rifle Association of America released a statement expressing outrage at the "Draconian" bill.

"Everyone's been walking around with their eyes closed; now we're all going to pay the price," said Fred, the firearms instructor. "Your freedom is no longer free. What's going on in this country is not anything different than what happened in [Adolf] Hitler's Germany."

You also may be interested in: