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Limits to Firepower

In a symbolic gesture, Albany Common Council backs federal gun-control legislation

by Laurie Lynn Fischer on February 16, 2011 · 2 comments

On Feb. 7, the Albany Common Council passed a resolution supporting federal legislation that would prohibit the transfer or possession of large-capacity ammunition feeding devices. Aimed at clips that hold 10 rounds or more, the resolution is a direct response to a mass shooting in Arizona this January, said its sponsor, Councilman Dominic Calsolaro (Ward 1).

“The gun that was used in the Tucson shooting—that chamber held up to 33 rounds of ammo,” Calsolaro said. “With a semiautomatic, you can just hold the trigger and it keeps firing.”

Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged gunman from Tucson, could face the death penalty if he is convicted for the shooting spree that took place outside a supermarket during a meeting between U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and constituents. Loughner, who reportedly had a history of mental illness, shot Giffords point blank through the head. She survived, but six victims died out of 19 who were shot, including one of her staffers, a U.S. district court judge, and a young girl.

Following the massacre, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives (HR-308) that would ban the type of ammunition clip Loughner used. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate.

McCarthy ran for Congress and lobbied ferociously for gun control after her husband was shot dead, and her son injured, in a 1993 massacre aboard a Long Island commuter train. Gunman Colin Ferguson used 15-round magazines to kill six and injure 19 more.

Calsolaro, a member of the Legal Community Against Violence, is the Common Council’s liaison to Albany’s Gun Violence Prevention Implementation Team. Even though clips of more than 10 rounds have already been outlawed in New York state, the resolution shows solidarity and addresses the issue on a national level, he said at Monday’s Common Council meeting.

“Why does anybody in their right mind need an ammunition device that holds 30 rounds?” he inquired. “What are they going to use it for?”

Asked the same question, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association President Tom King quoted the Second Amendment. “There isn’t an answer for that,” he said. “It’s legal to have it. We have the right to keep and bear arms.”

NYSRPA opposes HR-308, he said, posing a question of his own. “What makes Mr. Calsolaro think that if they pass more laws that a criminal is going to obey those laws?” he asked. “Criminals, by their very definition, don’t obey the law.”

King contended that the council members were “grandstanding.” People are the problem, not guns, he said.

“It’s a piece of feel-good legislation that is going to do nothing to take the violent criminals off the street,” he said. “It’s not going to be obeyed by anyone other than the legal gun owners.”

Lester Freeman (Ward 2), who represents Albany’s South End, was the only councilman to vote against the resolution.

“Most people think it’s an anomaly for a black lawmaker like me, living where I do, to take that type of stance,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of gun play in the city and a fair amount has been in the South End.”

Freeman, who has a gun permit, said he supports homeowners’ rights to protect themselves rather than “solely depend on the police.”

He also called the resolution “a waste of time,” since ammunition clips holding more than 10 rounds already are illegal in New York.

“We’re elected locally, not nationally,” he said. “I view the council as a lawmaking body, not a cheerleading squad.”

This is not the first gun-control measure the city of Albany has passed. When the Federal Assault Weapons ban expired in 2004, the Common Council supported its renewal, but it never was revived.

Even though the council supported the ban, Calsolaro was not optimistic about its future.

“HR-308 is only a one-page bill,” he said during a telephone conversation on Monday. “It’s specifically for large-capacity ammunition feeding devices. We’re trying to get that through the Congress. With the Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, I doubt it’s going to go anywhere.”