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Hudson Valley gun shop owners still uneasy about tougher control

Michael Timlin, with the family-owned RT Smoke'N Gun Shop in Mount Vernon, and Westchester residents in Yonkers talk about gun laws entering the public conversation again in light of the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn. (Dec. 18, 2012) Videojournalist: Xavier Mascarenas

Early Tuesday evening the National Rifle Association joined in calls for action to prevent any repetition of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but even with the NRA giving ground, it won't be easy to pass tougher gun control.

"Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting," the NRA said in a statement distributed nationally.

"The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

The group promised to offer details at a news conference in Washington on Friday.

Attitudes toward tougher controls seemed mixed in the Hudson Valley. The gun culture is deeply ingrained in American society and the Second Amendment remains an article of faith for many, even here, where recent elections have favored moderates.

Forty-seven percent of American adults reported having a gun in their home or property in a 2011 Gallup poll, the highest level in almost 20 years. Closer to home, Newsday research shows that 14,000 Hudson Valley residents received handgun permits in the last five years alone -- double the number who got permits in the previous five years -- while many more own rifles.

At the RT Smoke N Gun Shop on Sixth Avenue in Mount Vernon, a shop owned by Michael Timlin's family, Timlin told Newsday Monday that he is expecting a major push for tougher regulation of gun sales, a move he opposes. Timlin said that he is sold out of AR-15s, the semiautomatic rifle used in the shooting in Newtown, Conn.

The Newtown massacre took the lives of 20 children and six adults in minutes, as the shooter swept through the school firing rapidly from a military-style magazine holding 30 bullets.

"What I'm concerned with," Timlin said, "is they're going to pass these laws that are going to restrict good people from having firearms, and let criminals who do not have a license or choose not to have a license start a cycle where they will be able to run free and people looking to protect their family won't."

Patricia Davis, owner of the Davis Sport Shop in Sloatsburg, said those who would regulate firearms should look at the finger on the trigger.


"You can't blame a gun, or a bomb, or a knife," she said. "It's the person behind it. If somebody has issues, it needs to be addressed. And that's what happened in Connecticut. His (gunman Adam Lanza's) issues weren't addressed."

Gun control advocates have been pushing for a national dialogue on the issue.

On Monday Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino called for a fresh look at the question.

"Congress has not done anything . . . We have to look at potential loopholes that exist and strike a balance between constitutional issues and the need to protect lives," Astorino said. "We need a debate in this country."

Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins said the shootings should be a wake-up call.

"It's time to enact the strictest national gun laws in the world," he said in a statement. "We owe it to all of the victims."

A statement issued by Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef called for action at the federal level.

"The national dialogue needs to focus on lessons learned, and community leaders need to work collaboratively and expeditiously to put in place commonsense regulations to close loopholes," the Vanderhoef statement said. "These changes need to be implemented at the federal level because gun transactions often take place across state borders."

Gun control is a gnarly issue in Washington, with committed gun control advocates and gun rights advocates in both parties, and a Supreme Court that includes both points of view. Gun-control advocates argue that the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to bear arms was meant to apply to militias only, but the in 2008 the Supreme Court ruled differently, deciding that the principle applies to all Americans.

Congress passed a Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994 and that ban remained in place for a decade, but finally lapsed when Congress failed to extend it. The impact of the 2008 Supreme Court ruling on gun control regulations -- if Congress should act again along those lines -- remains to be seen.

Still, lawmakers like Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey sound determined to seize the moment and act.

"If we don't do something positive now that will have an impact, like banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, we are missing the boat," Lowey said. "It's wrong and we have to act."

With News 12, Xavier Mascarenas, Timothy O'Connor, John Dyer, Karl DeVries and Ron Bittner

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