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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Gun debate rages on, but some look for alternate narratives

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks beside Suffolk County Executive

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks beside Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone during a roundtable discussion about her proposed legislation that would for the first time make gun trafficking a federal crime, at Touro Law Center in Central Islip on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Credit: Barry Sloan

The most recent fatal campus shootings in Oregon and Arizona quickly sent opponents in the national gun debate back to the microphones. On Long Island on Friday, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrandof New York touted legislation she's co-sponsoring with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) that would make it a federal crime to illegally sell, transfer or purchase two or more guns.

That's just part of the perpetual firearms fight. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, whose post-Sandy Hook restrictions drew an extra share of backlash upstate from Second Amendment activists, said after administration official Carey Gabay's death by a stray bullet in Brooklyn that the federal government needed to tighten the appropriate background checks.

Left-of-center Washington, D.C., blogger Greg Sargent advised Democrats and fellow progressives to go beyond reacting to mass shootings to address gun violence and added: "It's probably a good idea for liberals to fully acknowledge the individual gun right, and focus on making the case that sensible regulation of firearms is not incompatible with that right."

Some gun-rights advocates also try to depart from the debate's usual back-and-forth. They've noted that the late Robert Franklin Williams, a onetime NAACP chapter leader, organized armed defense against violent segregationists in North Carolina in the 1950s -- by first obtaining a National Rifle Association charter.

Politically, the man was surely no ally of Charlton Heston. In the 1960s he fled the United States for Communist Cuba, then moved to Communist China, while the FBI pursued him on a fugitive warrant. In 1999 his widow, Mabel Williams, told an interviewer for the Southern Oral History Program: "I'm sure when we joined [the NRA] and the years after then, had they known we were a black group, they would have revoked our charter." She's recorded laughing at the irony that the NRA decades later sought to honor Williams.

BACK ON THE SCENE: Queens GOP consultant John Haggerty Jr. served time in 2013 and 2014 on his conviction for stealing funds from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign. Some political insiders found the whole case sketchy, but it's done. At a recent county committee meeting Haggerty advised the new county chairman, ex-Rep. Bob Turner, who said he appreciates the voluntary help.

"John is one of the most knowledgeable people in Queens about processes at the Board of Elections and all the arcane procedures that exist," Turner said.


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