Last week’s mass shootings in El Paso and Ohio came just on the heels of New York enacting new restrictive gun measures, some designed specifically with mass shootings in mind.
As Americans come to grips with the increasing frequency and deadliness of mass shootings, New York has this year passed a series of laws of which the handful signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the past week were but a part.
How these laws will play out in the greater Cortland area depends on where one stands on the issue.
For Robert Spitzer, a political science professor at SUNY Cortland and author of five books on gun laws, the new measures strengthen an already robust state regulatory regime.
But for other local observers, such as gun shop owner Doug Moss, the laws place increasing burdens on gun owners, though he does also acknowledge that some of the new laws will have a beneficial effect.
Spitzer said the laws taken together tackle gun safety from several different angles.
The law regarding guns in schools essentially codifies what is already the case, he said, since only police are now allowed to carry guns in New York schools.
“That’s consistent with the general belief with virtually everyone in the education community that (arming teachers) is not a solution,” he said.
Gun buybacks are not new, Spitzer said, but they can contribute to reducing injuries and fatalities from guns, because they reduce the number of guns lying around that can be accidentally or impulsively fired, or stolen.
Critics, he said, often point to the low quality of guns sold to buy back programs, such as old or worn-out guns.
“Which is true, but nevertheless it’s one less firearm out on the market,” he said.
“Neither measure is a gamechanging measure,” said Spitzer, but taken together with the other laws, they add up to “a more comprehensive approach” to gun regulation.
Spitzer said the measure regarding gun storage “is arguably the most important,” because it deters theft, prevents accidents and reduces the risk of suicide.
Safe storage laws can also prevent mass shootings, he said, pointing to several examples in shooters obtained firearms from relatives, including the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
He said he also views the red flag law as crucial.
“It’s clearly one where lives can be saved and harm can be avoided,” he said.
The ban on printed guns in a smart preemptive move, Spitzer said, since “they may rapidly become guns of choice for criminals.”
Doug Moss, owner of Creekside Firearms on Route 13 in Cortlandville, who also teaches gun safety and certification courses, had a more skeptical view of the new laws, and was especially doubtful that many of them would have any effect on stopping mass shootings.
“They will find a way to do it whether they can find a firearm legally or not,” he said.
Moss does, however, think that the safe storage law is a good idea.
“It may slow them down a little bit and give them time to cool off,” he said.
“Guns should be properly stored,” he said. “In my classes, we teach on that quite heavily.”
He also supported banning bump stocks, an item he has never sold and never would sell, as well as 3-D printed guns, which he thinks are “just stupid.”
He was less supportive of other new laws. On the red flag law, for instance, he said he has “mixed feelings.”
“I think the red flag law if used responsibly can be a good thing,” he said. “However, there are people out there that will try to red flag people for personal reasons.” He has concerns about people’s civil rights being violated.
Moss also has concerns the new gun laws will lead to morerestrictive laws.
“I do believe that there are people in New York state that want to drive guns out,” he said. “They’re just trying to make it harder and harder and harder to legally own a gun.”
Moss said he does not support the law on restricting guns in schools. He thinks that properly trained and licensed school employees, who have also qualified on a gun range, as police officers are required to do, should be allowed to carry concealed guns, since schools are “soft targets.”
He said he is skeptical of gun buybacks, but acknowledged their utitlity in getting people with illegally obtained firearms to give them up to police without fear of punishment.
New York’s new waiting period law he sees as redundant and confusing, because the current federal background check system, which he uses regularly as a gun vendor, works very well, he said.