Thomas King, president of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, the official NRA-affiliated State Association in New York, talks about the group's response to Gov. Cuomo's new gun laws, NY-SAFE, including filing a notice of legal claim against it.
Transcript of Key Exchanges from Thomas King Interview
Note: This is a rushed transcript.
On the NRA's Position on Universal Background Checks
Thomas King: The NRA has never approved universal background checks, and neither do we. We are for background checks for everyone who is purchasing a gun at gun shows. But to say that I can’t leave a firearm to my son without giving him a background check, that’s not the way things are done in the United States.
Brian Lehrer: But Ms. Lanza gave a gun to her son without a background check, didn't she?
Thomas King: No, that’s not what she did. Those were illegal guns because he killed his mother and stole those guns. I’m tired of the press spinning this. Those were not legal guns – he stole those guns.
On Illegal Guns from Other States Entering New York City
Thomas King: The problem is that in big cities, they don’t enforce the laws. Three years ago the New York Times reported on how NYC failed to enforce guns laws. Only 300 out of 1900 gun arrests… This is from a mayor who says he is the leading gun advocate in the United States? Give me a break.
Brian Lehrer: What kind of gun laws is the mayor failing to enforce? He’s already in trouble with stop and frisk, an aggressive anti-gun program.
Thomas King: But then they don’t do anything about it. By the way, stop and frisk is an abridgment of anybody’s rights against search and seizure… But they don’t enforce the laws. They arrest somebody, then let them go. It’s an abysmal record.
On Assault Weapons
Brian Lehrer: What legitimate use could someone have for these types of assault weapons?
Thomas King: What part of the first amendment do you want to lose? This is the same thing. We’re talking about a right that was guaranteed under the bill of rights and included into the constitution.
Brian Lehrer: The question is whether to draw the line. It’s already been ruled that the second amendment doesn't protect fully automatic machine guns, right?
Thomas King: Yes. What we’re talking about here is semi-automatic assault weapons that have been used since the 1950s.
Brian Lehrer: But what’s the thing you’re protecting, other than the abstraction of allowing people to have those –-
Thomas King: -- the 2nd amendment is an abstraction?
Brian Lehrer: -- the abstraction of where you draw the line. If you can’t use machine guns, what’s the point of including these semi-automatic weapons that get described as assault weapons. Where do you draw the line, what’s the public good?
Thomas King: I repeat my first question: what part of the 1st amendment do you want to give up?
On the Cultural Divide Over Guns
Brian Lehrer: It’s no secret that much of the divide over guns follows an upstate-downstate split here in New York. Talk to the downstate New York audience listening right now and tell them what you think they need to know in order to bridge the divide.
Thomas King: We’re all legal and lawful citizens of New York State and the United States. We’re parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. This is something we've grown up with. It’s like living in a neighborhood and playing stickball. It’s the same thing – we go out to a range and we shoot. Can guns be dangerous? Yes they can. But I’ll tell you right now, you can put a gun on a table and leave it there, and it will not kill anybody – until somebody picks it up and pulls the trigger. If you’re a legal and lawful gun owner that’s not going to happen. We don’t come down and tell you how to live in your neighborhood, so please don’t come upstate and tell us how to live.