McGraw school Superintendent Melinda McCool grew up hunting with her father, hunts with her children, and supports the right to own guns.
However, she said she’d never place a gun in the hands of a teacher and supports at least one of the six gun-reform bills awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature, part of an agenda he made a priority in the first 100 days of his term.
Republican lawmakers have criticized many of the measures as unnecessary and overreaching, although others have support from both sides of the political aisle.
In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 772 people died in New York from firearm-related incidents.
No guns for teachers
The bill McCool supports would allow only people primarily employed protecting a school to carry firearms in school. This would prohibit teachers from being armed — contrary to suggestions by President Donald Trump to arm teachers.
State Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) said it’s an example of overreach. “The bill would eliminate a school’s authority as it sees fit, to have a properly trained individual carry on school property,” he said.
“It’s a stupid law,” said Doug Moss, owner of Creekside Firearms, along Route 13 in Cortlandville. “Schools are a soft target. Wouldn’t it be better to have a trained armed teacher, not carrying open, nobody would know they had it. Couldn’t that possibly save lives?”
Unlikely, said Homer School Resource Officer Quentin Giles and Cortland School Resource Officer Rob Reyngoudt, who both support the measure. They say only law enforcement officers have the training necessary to properly handle active shooter situations.
“Just to become an officer we have to attend and complete an academy that simulates stressful situations, being in those and acting properly in them,” Giles said.
Arming teachers would just cause confusion during an active-shooter situation, Giles said. Emergency responders wouldn’t know whether the person with a gun is a teacher or a shooter, and teachers’ first task should be the children, not the shooter.
“There’s more to carrying a gun than being able to hit a target,” Reyngoudt said. “It’s the mental and emotional training we need to go through to pull the trigger — if need be — on a person.”
Teachers already have a job to do.
“Teachers are teachers,” Reyngoudt said. “They do a great job at it and can stick to it,” he said. “Let law enforcement handle issues of having to use deadly physical force on someone.”
Waiting time increased
The provision extending the wait period to buy some weapons has mixed reactions.
“This is really … basically it’s very misleading,” Moss said.
Federal law requires a three-day wait, but New York never did, Moss said. However, the New York SAFE increased requirements in 2013. “The SAFE Act says that a person buying a gun from a gun shop or individual must do a FBI NICS check — background check,” he said. “That makes sense. I like that.”
Moss said anyone looking to buy a gun should go through a background check.
Three responses come from the background check, which is instantly done on the computer:
* Proceed. Which means the buyer instantly can take the gun.
* Denied. The buyer doesn’t get the gun.
* Delay. Gives the FBI three business days to either respond with a proceed, a deny or no response.
If no response is given, Moss said that is where the three days comes in. If after three days there is no response then the purchaser can take the gun, Moss said.
Initially, Moss said Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted to make the period 10 days. “Now it got pushed to a 30-day,” he said.
The bill awaiting Cuomo’s signature, Moss said, would supersede the federal law — from a three-day wait to 30.
The catch — people who don’t get a response, which is random, must wait 30 days. However, the NICS background check is good for only 30 days, Moss said.
An extended background check may not help in every situation.
Take for instance a domestic abuse situation where the abuser is never reported to the police. “If a perpetrator is not charged and or convicted of a domestic violence crime, it is not going to show up on any background check,” said Linda Glover, the director of Aid to Victims of Violence, a program at the YWCA.
That’s why the passage of the bill on taking away guns from people who pose a threat to themselves or others can be very important, she said.
Protection orders — overreach or helpful?
One of the bills would allow for extreme-risk protection order, known as red-flagging, preventing individuals who show a sign of being a threat to themselves or others from buying or possessing guns.
Moss thinks the law is bad. “Because that says anybody could petition the court to get a protection order against anybody else and then that court would automatically file for confiscation,” he said.
Giles said this provision needs to be handled carefully. The law would allow a household member or school teacher, for example, to call for an extreme risk protection order against a student who they think poses a threat.
Weapons would be confiscated and the student would be prohibited from buying firearms. Giles is worried that without proper procedures, people will have their rights violated.
Seward spokesman Jeff Bishop said the law could result in the taking of firearms from other residents in a household, like parents or guardians.
Giles would rather see a threat assessment team of school administrators, a school nurse, guidance counselors and school resource officers should assess the situation.
“You identify is the person able to carry out the violent act, determine the seriousness of the threats and develop an intervention plan that would protect potential victims and address the underlying conflict,” Giles said.
He’s working to establish one in Homer schools and he hopes it’s mandated for every school by the end of the year. It would protect the due process rights of individuals, he says.
“I don’t want to violate people’s rights because somebody said something inappropriate and it was misconstrued,” he said.
“Some stuff that comes in is just hearsay and we have to go assess. If, on hearsay, we remove guns I think we’d be violating people’s rights.”
However, Glover said there is no way Aid to Victims of Violence wouldn’t support the bill. “The only down side is when you take away an abuser’s guns it’s another thing for them to be upset at because they always blame the victim.”
She noted the most dangerous time for victims can be when they are trying to leave the abusive relationship.
However, Seward said he feels that the law is over reaching and lacks due process. He also said if the crisis has passed there is “no expeditious way of returning the firearms.”
Approximately 4.5 million women have been threatened by intimate partners with firearms and 1 million have been shot or shot at by an abuser, according to a 2018 research paper by Susan B. Sorenson and Rebecca A. Schut published in the journal “Trauma, Violence, & Abuse.”
One in three female homicide victims and one in 20 male homicide victims are killed by intimate partners, to a 2008 article on domestic violence by F. Stephen Bridges; Kimberly M. Tatum; Julie C. Kunselman in the “Criminal Justice Policy Review.”
Bump stock ban
Other bills ban devices, like a bump stock, that allows the gun to fire more rapidly and establish out-of-state mental health records as part of a background check.
Moss, the gun dealer, supports a bump stock ban. He wants more consideration of mental health, too.
“Nobody needs a bump stock, period,” Moss said. “I never had one. I’d never sell one. I wouldn’t even sell them.”
Moss said the attachment, which allows a firearm when shot to slide back and forth easing the kick, is unnecessary.
The attachment was found a many guns used during the Las Vegas shooting in 2017. The shooting occurred in October 2017 and 58 people died; hundreds more were wounded.
Homer Police Chief Robert Pitman said he is supports banning bump stocks because they theoretically make a semiautomatic weapon more like an automatic weapon.
Moss thinks mental health is an important part being looked at. “I think mental health is very important and the records are very important,” he said. “They should be placed into the NICS system.”
Moss sees the new laws as a deterrent to people even wanting to purchase firearms — which would harm his business.
“The point is, how is it going to affect criminals getting firearms? Getting bump stocks?” he asked.
“The only people it’s affecting are law abiding gun owners and law abiding citizens,” Moss said.
Staff reporters Shenandoah Briere and Jacob DeRochie and Senior Reporter Catherine Wilde contributed to this report.