More than two weeks after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the country's strictest gun control legislation into law in New York, the debate over Second Amendment rights for all Americans remains on the forefront in Rockland County.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) -- flanked by mayors from Haverstraw, West Haverstraw, Nyack, Hillburn and Airmont, as well as Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe and other local elected officials -- gathered at Haverstraw's Town Hall on Thursday to call on Congress to push for federal gun legislation.
Proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the laws would reinstate the nationwide ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004, ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and require background checks in connection with all gun show sales.
Lowey noted that about 40 percent of the gun sales in the U.S. are done without background checks, allowing criminals easy access to firearms.
"It has cost countless lives and caused immeasurable suffering," Lowey said of lax regulation of weapon sales, mentioning mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and at Virginia Tech University. "It's time for our expressions of sympathy to be matched with concrete actions to stop gun violence."
Zugibe, who proclaimed he is a gun owner, said national legislation is needed so that criminals cannot buy weapons in states with lax gun regulations and bring the weapons to New York in cars.
"New York, right now, has the strongest gun control legislation in the country. But all by itself, it may mean very little," Zugibe said about the law that limited magazine capacity to seven rounds and banned assault-style weapons in New York. "As long as we have uncontrolled trafficking of guns coming in from all the other states, it may be a purely illusionary bill."
West Haverstraw Mayor John Ramundo presented himself as a combat veteran from the Vietnam era and said he had fired M-16s, the prototype for today's assault weapons.
"No one in this country should own an automatic assault weapon aside from law enforcement and military personnel," Ramundo said. "I've seen what they can do."
Hillburn Mayor Bernard Jackson said that those who want to continue to have the right to own assault weapons are "brainwashed."
"They're not worried about hunting," Jackson said. "Now they're going to the premise that they're going to have to have weapons like this to protect their family."
Rockland officials who were not at the event had mixed reactions to what was said there.
Rockland County Legis. Edwin Day (R-New City) -- a gun owner who has served in law enforcement for 25 years, as a police officer in New York City and as chief of detectives with the Baltimore Police Department -- says he hopes for a "comprehensive" approach to gun regulation.
"We need a well-balanced effort that deals with all aspects of violence," Day told Newsday. "Those same people who are out in the street over and over again are not being put away, and they keep committing these crimes. The solo approach is doomed to failure. Criminals do not obey laws."
Day wants to see a stronger push for prompt notification of police in cases where individuals exhibit dangerous psychological problems, as well as an effort to fully prosecute offenders and secure schools.
"I never once had to arrest a person who was the perpetrator of a crime who had that gun registered to him or her," Day said.
Frank Sparaco (R-Valley Cottage), an avid gun owner, called the new legislation in congress "nonsense."
"The assault weapons ban from the 1990s era proved to accomplish absolutely nothing," Sparaco said. "It did nothing to protect anyone."
Sparaco went on to call the local leaders in favor of the proposed legislation "nimwits."
"I'm not even taking this national legislation seriously," Sparaco said. "It's just an act. They know it's not going anywhere."