New Yorkers and Guns

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kirsten Gillibrand's Senate appointment has revealed some differences between how New York City residents and upstate New Yorkers view guns. Caitlin Kelly, author of Blown Away: American Women and Guns, and Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, talk about the upstate/downstate divide.


Paul Helmke and Caitlin Kelly

Comments [28]

B. from NYC

I find myself remembering that Obama's election should have been taken as a vindication of Howard Dean's 50 state strategy. Of course, Dean also regarded gun control/rights as a state by state issue, where states dealt with an issue that had its impact locally.

To be honest, talking about how you grew up upstate and never used a gun is just a bit foolish. I grew up in NY and I've never been to temple. Make of that what you will.

People who find gun ownership mystifying are probably all too easily mystified. I could go "Why does anyone need a car? I'm from NYC. And I don't understand this. Let's outlaw them." What would that make me but silly?
I don't own Gucci either. Let's ban the fashion industry, the home turf of a group of oft-times irretrievably silly and pretentious people. Trust me, if push comes to shove, there are enough people in this country who probably don't believe in freedom of thought to outlaw that too.

Maybe it's about time somebody really thought about this as an issue, rather than sit around jerking knees. And argue from ignorance of others.

Personally I think the only major reason to control gun ownership is that most people are really rather dangerous and the thought of riding a subway train with people who are carrying pistols in this town is just plain frightening. Imagine the arguments that could escalate into a shoot-out. Oooo, what fun.

Oddly the Swiss require gun ownership as an element of national service. It's a long rifle, if memory serve. Let's outlaw the Swiss, too.

Jan. 28 2009 01:03 PM
NWP from Greenwich,CT

The Constitution used to be a protector of citizens rights.

Can we now say that the right to open prosecution of "crimes" still exists in the era of Bush/Cheney? If that basic right granted by the Constitution can be obviated by the Executive branch without restraint can we rely on continuation of the other rights?

The historically proven (in this country see 1800 thru 1920) method to reduce violence of all types is prompt, just, and brutal punishment of those CONVICTED of violent crimes. A public execution of ALL murderers, amputation of limbs of rapists and violent criminals are fair punishment options.

The punishment should be at least as brutal as the crime. The deterrence factor should be publicised widely. Illegal gun (of any type) possession should be equally punishable.

Homeland Security initiatives already make it possible to identify possession of weapons as we move about. That system could be integrated with gun registration records to eliminate false unnecessary arrests. This plan would systematically remove illegal weapons from our public areas.

Registration of legal weapons should be made both less class controlled and restrictive. Guns kept in homes for defense would not be captured but these are not the ones used in violent crimes.

Additionally, the suggested punishments would be less expensive on our tax money than extended incarceration and would serve as a visible deterrent to others so inclined.

Removing guns from our society would be a lenghty expensive and outright illegal under our constitution.

Jan. 28 2009 10:14 AM
Kathy from Glen Cove, NY

The need for gun ownership in this country is mistifying. Why do Americans feel the need to own guns? Are most people's neighbors so menacing that some feel the need to arm themselves?

After my father passed away in another state, a member of the police department helped my stepmother remove and legally dispose of his gun collection. He also had so much ammunition and material to make his own bullets, including black powder, that he had placed the entire family in danger. It was especially worrisome that their house is in an area sometimes threatened by wildfires.

I struck me when I found out about his inventory how deeply angry he must have been and how it manifested itself in a dangerous and hostile fashion. He was a former marine but otherwise was not a hunter or sharpshooter. Is this what our laws are protecting? He was a law abiding citizen but he placed both his family and neighbors in danger.

There are many other countries that don't allow citizens to own guns and they don't have the corresponding murder rate we do. Why do Americans glorify violence so much? It is very disturbing and I hope that some day we can get past it.

I'm sorry for Senator Gillibrand that she refuses to distinguish between owning a rifle for hunting and the unreasonable desire to own and use a semi-automatic weapon. I'd respect her more if she would take a more nuanced position. If she doesn't, she certainly won't get my vote in the next election.

Jan. 27 2009 12:31 PM
Jackie from Brooklyn

As a hunter, I don't believe the NRA speaks for me.
I do not use a handgun and I do not want to patronize gun dealers that participate in "straw purchases" that result in more violence in my city. I would support any legislation that reins in the rogue dealers who give all gun owners a bad name.

Jan. 27 2009 12:05 PM
bee from brooklyn

Tony, unfortunately the second amendment is currently interpreted to only apply to federal law. States are now free to apply further limits, that's why DC vs Heller (DC gun law challenge) was not able to extend to other cities like NYC.

Here is some more local information:
NYC gun laws currently limit all gun ownership except to wealthy citizens. They charge exhorbient fees and permits designed to make it bureaucratically difficult or too expensive for low income citizens to own ordinary hunting weapons. The "permit" to own rifles or shotguns for hunting is 100$+140$ for three years. The handgun license is 340$+100$ for three years. Both permits carry limitless bureaucracy involved to move, buy, sell these liscensed guns and require investigations for any simple police interaction.

It is easy to see that NYC gun control is designed to keep underprivledged law abiding citizens from owning guns for any legal purpose. Criminals, however, easily receive weapons from states whose constituents demand respect of constitutional rights.

assault weapons are defined locally as any semi-automatic gun (yes, ordinary type single trigger pull, single shot) that have any of the following on them (i) a folding or telescoping stock; (ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon; (iii) a bayonet mount; (iv) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; (v) a grenade launcher

please do more specific coverage of this honest and educational gun information vs the misinformation and spin of usual coverage. Putting both sides in the same room on this issue (aka fair coverage) is often like discussing religion with an anarchist and a mormon as your guests. There is more clarity available on the issue and Caitlin Kelly seems to provide an interesting balance on this topic. Bring her back.

Jan. 27 2009 11:33 AM
Paul from Brooklyn

Caitlin Kelly's comments about upstate New York are inaccurate and offensive. She claims that north of Westchester County, "hunting is what you do on the weekends". I grew up upstate and I have never fired a gun in my life. Not one of my family members hunts or owns a gun. Not one of my friends hunts or owns a gun.

Barack Obama won six of the nine counties that Kirsten Gillibrand represented as a congresswoman. The Hudson Valley is not Oklahoma.

Jan. 27 2009 11:29 AM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

I hate guns. I’ll never own a gun. I’ll never allow a gun in my household. But I’m also grounded in reality. I know for fact that I can get any kind of gun I want illegally, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year on the black market with no background check or waiting period and no limit to how many I buy except by how much cash I have in my pocket. How is making it illegal to own any type of gun going to do any good? Prohibition is useless in this country. Why? Because whatever you make illegal becomes a hot product to sell on the black market. Prove me wrong, name one thing that’s illegal that I can’t get anytime I want on the black market 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Billions of dollars and 40 years later of the drug wars and America does more illegal drugs then ever…. The idea that a gun ban will make America a happy peaceful place is just pure fantasy. Maybe time and money would be better spent on educating people on the dangers of guns and find out why people kill people with such disregard. For better or worse, restriction has never worked in America….

Jan. 27 2009 11:26 AM
Stephen Klips from Brooklyn, NY

Maybe if one of the law abiding citizens on the LIRR had a gun, Colin Ferguson would not have been able to kill so many people before he was finally subdued.

Also - recall that the assasin of Councilman James Davis was promptly shot by a police officer in City Hall after his crime. Then the Mator wanted to disarm everyone who goes to City Hall, including police. Does this make any sense? If a criminal has a gun in a public place and wants to do harm, might it not be good if some law abiding people nearly are also armed?

Jan. 27 2009 11:09 AM
A Listener in Chicago

Chicago has roughly 500 murders a year, nearly all committed with handguns. But look further and you'll see that most of these shootings were committed during the course of other crimes and by people with existing criminal records.

These people are predators, robbing, raping and killing because they know they can. And let me cite the oft-repeated truism that criminals don't obey gun laws.

What am I supposed to do if someone breaks in my home? Dial 911 and cower in the corner? Why should urban residents have less of a right and ability to protect their homes than rural residents?

Jan. 27 2009 11:07 AM
Phil from Qeens

Brian's “coverage” of "gun" issues continues to biased and fraudulent. He lets the anti-gun people control the language and tone of these discussions, often using their language himself and doesn't have true pro-gun people to debate the anti-gunners. It’s not about hunting – its about self defense.

For law-abiding gun owners (73 million owners, with more than half the country’s population in those homes) it is not about hunting, The 2nd Amendment is about a person’s civil right to defend themselves against political oppression and violence. Brian's segments are frauds. For 15 years I have been trying to get Brian and Lenny to have attorneys, professors and law enforcement people on their shows who are true 2nd Amendment supporters. They have refused. Brian and Lenny instead choose to be propagandists for their own positions -- a position not shared by most of this country. 40 states now have must issue concealed carry laws for citizens to own hand guns. Only in states where Dems rule over large blocks of minority groups and where crime is high do advocates for gun control rule. It's a joke.

Jan. 27 2009 11:06 AM
Phil from Qeens

Senator Gillibrand will bring a dose of reality and common-sense to a highly political issue. I believe that she can not only reach a reasonable consensus on the firearm issue, but as a moderate Democrat from NY she will be able to work with most of the Senate and will NY more money because she isn’t a hated anti-gunner like GUN OWNERS Chucky Schumer and Hillary Clinton. Those two never got NY the cash it needs, yet always got reelected.
Anyone who read the legal literature knew that the 2nd Amendment was a civil right as strong and important as freedom of religion and speech. Many “liberal” legal scholars have written articles that started out trying to prove the opposite, but their research lead them to agree that the firearm ownership is a civil right in this country. The Supreme Court finally ruled for the obvious.
Anyone who reads the statistical literature knows that, and as the University of Chicago (where the Anointed One -- Barry Obama taught) proved – “More Guns Equal Less Crime.” What the National Safety Council Stats also show is that firearm ownership is one of the safest activities in this country. Accidents have been down every year for a century despite more people and more guns.

Gun owners know better then people who don’t own guns that guns can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Few accidents or injuries occur where guns are legally owned. They mostly occur where guns are already illegally owned. Most crime is committed by small portions of the population on small portions of the population. This crime is mostly located in isolated geographic areas where liberal Democratic administrations rule those places like old time plantation owners.

Jan. 27 2009 10:54 AM
Scott from West Long Branch, NJ

I don't mean to downplay the lives that are lost due to gun violence, but more than 30,000 people worldwide die nearly every week from malaria and other curable and preventable infectious diseases. I wish these issues were talked about as much as gun control.

Jan. 27 2009 10:53 AM
Lance from Manhattan

The Constitution needs to be amended, Tony.

Jan. 27 2009 10:50 AM
The Truth from Atlanta/New York

Guns in upstate NY and in the backwoods of Georgia are the same guns.

What the heck are you hunting with a handgun or AK 47 anyways?

Am I uninformed, is there a safety on the guns used in upstate NY that will prevent the person behind the gun from using the gun on a human when they get upset?

Jan. 27 2009 10:50 AM
barry from Manhattan

How about some stimulus for gun safety training and licensing

Jan. 27 2009 10:50 AM
Amelia from brooklyn, ny

I'm origionally from upstate New York and just want to say that New York State isn't two seperate countries- divisive statements like that one made by your panelist are the root of the problems between "up" and "down" state. I'm from "Eastern New York", Gillibrand Country if you will, and I grew up in a city. I did not grow up hunting. Upstate New York is comprised of a widely diverse population- not all hunters and gun-nuts.

Jan. 27 2009 10:49 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

But the ownership of handguns is legal by the second amendement, even if makes cities unsafe, even if it's not a good idea, it is a constitutional right. If you don't like it, you need to change the constitution.

Jan. 27 2009 10:48 AM
Lance from Manhattan

There are many countries who have shown again and again that restrictions on gun ownership and representative democracy are not mutually exclusive.

We spend a lot of time arguing about gun control here in the US. Why don't we spend more time addressing the factors that lead to fatal and near-fatal assaults? Something has changed in our society since the framing of the Constitution. The founders did not experience random gun massacres, such as we have seen at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and on the LIRR.

Jan. 27 2009 10:48 AM
Nick from NYC

So... if this is really all about hunter's rights, to hunt, then nobody needs handguns or semi-automatics, right? Just hunting rifles.

However, the constitutional thing has to be addressed as reality... it's right in there, and it doesn't say anything about hunting - but rather militias!

Jan. 27 2009 10:47 AM
barry from Manhattan

Cho came to VT to do some serious killing, and he did it. Sulejmen Talovic came to Trolley Mall in Salt Lake City to do the same thing. He brought a shotgun, a pistol and a backpack full of ammunition. He planned on having lots of time. He may have thought Trolley Mall was also a gun-free zone. It wasn’t. Talovic only killed five before an armed, Kimber-carrying off-duty Ogden cop punched his ticket and ended it.

"cut n paste"

Jan. 27 2009 10:46 AM
Barbara Hohlt from Manhattan

Dear Brian,

As Executive Director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence, an association of state-based gun violence prevention organizations, I hope for all of our states that new Senator Gillibrand modifies her positions on reasonable gun control bills. She might start by modifying her discussion of standing up for hunters. All our states have hunters and most hunters are licensed and obey state hunting laws for thie safety and the safety of others. And hunters and upstaters understand the difference between hunting and crime guns - often illegal guns sold to those who should not have them. The diappointing part is that Gillibrand cosponsored gun bills that had nothing to do with hunters' rights. She was cosponsor of a bill to make permanent and worse the Tiahrt restrictions on releasing crime gun trace data. She does not have a vote on this but she was a cosponsor. She was a cosponsor and voted for the bill to preempt the DC council work to bring their laws in compliance with the Supreme Court decision.

As a first step in changing, she needs to change her rhetoric. Then a good dialogue can begin.

Thank you!

Barbara Hohlt
Executive Director

Jan. 27 2009 10:44 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

It is a constitutional right to bear arms and it shouldn't be infringed upon. NYC has the toughest road to get a gun...there is gun violence in the city, but the part that will never change is violence...should we ban police use of guns? They seem to be as careless as anyone with guns.
The gun issue/ban is the step sister to the abortion issue(s)...people don't really wanna listen to the other side. i don't own a gun and have never owned one.

Jan. 27 2009 10:43 AM
Marsha from Upper West Side

There's a huge disconnect with the Republicans. They are pro-life and yet the lives of animals have no value. The gross display of that unfortunate bear (?) on the back of Sarah Palin's couch in her office was obscene!

Jan. 27 2009 10:41 AM
mc from Brooklyn

I agree with posts #2,3 and 4. This bears careful watching. It is interesting that she took the position she did on the DC gun ban, but also took the position favoring DC self rule.

Jan. 27 2009 10:34 AM
Andy Pelosi from North Salem, NY

Dear Brian and guests:

I don't believe that there is really a true upstate/downstate divide, as opposed to perhaps a rural/urban divide. Cities like Albany, Schenectady, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo are all located north and west of NYC and they all suffer from the scourge of illegal guns. Sen. Gillibrand has voted against legislation that would help those areas combat illegal guns. Talking about hunters is a smoke screen. Let the hunters have their guns (as long as background checks take place). The issue is how do we reduce gun deaths and one way (not the only way) is to give law enforcement tools to solve gun crimes, share trace data info,etc. Kirsten Gillibrand needs to visit the entire state of NY and modify her views on the gun issue.

Thank you.

Andy Pelosi

Jan. 27 2009 10:30 AM
jennifer from manhattan

This is my opinion: If Kirsten Gillibrand wants to continue to represent the people of New York and maintain her pro-gun stance, then for the next two years she should attend the funeral of every child in New York killed by guns. I would like to see her personally encounter all of that unnecessary grief and suffering and explain to Bed-Stuy families why upstate hunters need semi-automatic weapons. If she can do that, then she's made of steel and will certainly do well in the Senate.

Jan. 27 2009 10:16 AM
Jackei Hilly from New Yorkers Against Gun Violence

Hello Brian and Guest,

As the Executive Director of NYAGV I wanted to say that Kirsten Gillibrand keeps encouraging NYers to think that gun violence prevention groups want to take away the rights of hunters.WE DO NOT. Hunters in NYS are licensed and they obey state Laws. The hunters do NOT use handguns to hunt.Gillibrand continues to talk about guns only in the context of hunting which has NOTHING to do with handguns and the laws that she has promoted in her first term as a Congresswoman. She cosponsored HR 4900 which would have made permanent restrictions on releasing crime gun tracing data-an essential tool for Law enforcement trying to find the sources for illegal crime guns that come into NYS. After the Supreme Court Decision in Heller, the District of Columbia began to ammend its laws to come into compliance with the Heller decision. Gillibrand and other pro NRA members of Congress tried to pre-empt the Districts right of self government with a bill that went far beyond the requirements of Heller.

Jackie Hilly
Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence

Jan. 27 2009 10:13 AM
michaelw from INWOOD

People who live in the woods or near the woods and who want to kill animals for food or for fun should be allowed to own and use reasonable guns.

People in the city or urban areas who have no interest in shooting guns or shoot animals have no need for guns.

Guns are not bad however bad people use them.

People should have the right to shoot and kill animals that are not endangered.

Jan. 27 2009 10:07 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.