Obama gun control plan riles Hudson Valley critics

Denine Timlin, with the family-owned RT Smoke N Denine Timlin, with the family-owned RT Smoke N Gun Shop in Mount Vernon, shows a customer a Remington 7600 Police .308-caliber rifle. (Dec. 18, 2012) Photo Credit: Xavier Mascarenas

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President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled proposed federal gun control legislation designed to avert a repeat of violence like Dec. 14's Newtown school massacre, but Hudson Valley firearms advocates were digging in their heels in reaction to newly approved state laws.

Appearing at the White House with Vice President Joe Biden, who led a gun control task force that met with 229 groups before drafting the proposals, Obama called on Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and close loopholes that allow an estimated 40 percent of gun transactions to skirt buyer background checks.

The proposed legislation would impose a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines; extend background checks to gun fairs and private transactions; and ban weapons like the AR-15 assault rifle used to mow down 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut Dec. 14.

"I have no illusions about what we're up against," Obama said, urging citizens from traditional firearms strongholds to lend their voices in urging Congress for approval of "common-sense" legislation.

On Monday, however, members of the Dutchess County Pistol Association, a National Rifle Association-sanctioned club, will hold a 13-hour-long target shootout at their Wappingers Falls range to protest Albany's new restrictions on gun owners signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday.

That legislation broadens a previous assault weapon ban, requires background checks of gun buyers and trims the capacity of magazines to seven rounds from a prior limit of 10.

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Gun owner Bob Bidwell of Wappingers Falls said the state legislation would turn law-abiding gun owners into outlaws.

"There are millions of .22 pistols and rifles that have 10-round capacities," he said. "As a private citizen gun owner, basically, ... I will be a criminal."

Bidwell said Monday's pistol association protest is merely designed to make a point.

"We don't want to do anything illegal," he said. "We're going to make a little noise."

The powerful NRA on Tuesday posted an online video labeling Obama as an "elitist hypocrite" for letting armed Secret Service guards protect his own daughters while voicing skepticism about the NRA's proposal to put armed guards at schools around the country.

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Obama also called on Congress to pass legislation to make it illegal to own armor-piercing bullets; stop "straw man" purchases of firearms in which a false buyer substitutes for the actual purchaser; and impose stiffer penalties on gun-trafficking rings.

In urging a halt to the sale of assault-style weapons, Obama invoked the name of former President Ronald Reagan, a conservative icon who in 1991 wrote to Congress in support of a ban on their manufacture.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who helped draft the Brady Bill gun control measures as a congressman in the 1990s, said Obama's new initiatives will encounter heavy resistance from firearms advocates.

"The NRA doesn't have as much power in New York as it does in Western and Southern states," he said.

Though he backs Albany's actions, Schumer said effective gun control must be imposed at the federal level.

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"Ninety percent of the guns used in crimes in New York come from out of state, so we need a federal law," he said.

The White House also announced 23 executive actions that Obama signed Wednesday and take effect immediately, including one that directs the federal Centers for Disease Control to study the best way to stem gun violence.

The broader federal background checks in gun sales would not extend to transactions among family members, officials said.

Questioned on why the White House is seeking to stem only the manufacture and sale of new assault weapons and magazines and not "claw back" the ones already in circulation, a senior administration official demurred.

"Our view is we should get done as much as we can get done," he said.

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With Christian Wade

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