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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Thursday, January 3

Powder burns

Well we could have used a heat shield last night at the City Council meeting as the gun debate got going (a little firearm humor, there).

I counted 11 people who got up to the mic to ask the council to cancel the gun show at the City Center Jan. 11 through 13, though I could have missed one or two.

Skidmore Political Science Professor Robert Turner, who is also married to Susan Steer, organizer of the petition to cancel the gun show, questioned holding a gun show where AR-15 rifles and AK-47s in a publicly-owned building.

"I don't see why publicly-funded facilities should be promoting this," he said. 

Phil Diamond, who often speaks about a wide range of issues at the City Council meetings (no meeting is complete without him), called for a protest in front of the City Center during the gun show.

"Let's use our First Amendment rights to battle their Second Amendment rights," he said. "Let's be as noisy as we can be at the show."

Other notable speakers were: Bill McTygue, former Democratic commissioner of public works and Charlie Samuels, the self-proclaimed 50-year-old skateboarder. Other speakers were listed in today's story on the meeting.

Most people who spoke said they did not believe Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen's resolution went far enough.

Before Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan made her amendment to strengthen the resolution (though it is still non-binding and essentially symbolic), Public Works Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco said he could find "a couple thousand dollars in my budget" to start a gun buy-back program in the city.

That did not go anywhere, since he was trying to add it to the resolution they were already working on, but it seemed like it would need its own.

The only person to speak in defense of the gun show was John Tighe, who writes the Saratoga In Decline blog (Warning, the content is crude, vulgar and is considered offensive to some most). He said the focus should be on private sales of guns, which do not require a background check, as opposed to the gun show, which is regulated and requires background checks for sales therein.

"I would protest against Craigslist," he said. "I would protest against the want ads. That's where most of these sales are happening."

He was in the minority at the meeting, though.

Carol Maxwell said she is a former gun owner and member of the NRA, but "I no longer have guns in my life."

Anyway, I wanted to offer a little clarity to the debate, because as City Center Authority President Mark Baker pointed out to me after the meeting, "there were a lot of errors in what they were saying."

I'm no gun expert, but I've shot before, I've attended the Saratoga Arms Fair and I know enough to realize that there IS indeed a lot of misinformation out there about what is legal, what isn't and what we're talking about here.

First off, there were a few references to "rapid fire" weapons or "automatic" weapons. Those are machine guns and are not legal without very regimented and specific licensing and they are not sold at gun shows.

Semi-automatic means that if you depress the trigger, only one bullet is shot. If you want to shoot another bullet, you need to pull the trigger again.

"Assault weapons" are illegal in New York State. They were illegal nationally until the ban on them expired nearly a decade ago, but not all AR-15s or AK-47s are legally considered assault weapons.

In order to be considered an assault weapon, those guns would need to also have at least two of the following add-ons: a folding or telescopic stock, a pistol grip (meaning a handle like a pistol, where you grip the gun), a bayonet mount (not that THAT seems to be much of an issue these days), a flash suppressor (which goes on the end of the barrel to reduce the flash exiting the barrel with a bullet) or a grenade launcher.

High-capacity magazines were also banned in the federal law in 1994, but magazines manufactured before the ban have always remained legal.

Here is the penal law section defining "Assault Weapons."

Penal law section 265.00

 22. "Assault weapon" 
(This section is for a rifle that is legally considered an "Assault weapon")  
 (a) a  semiautomatic  rifle  that  has  an ability  to  accept  a  detachable  magazine and has at least two of the
  following characteristics:
    (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; 

For the record, that means an AR-15 with none or only one of those additions is not an assault weapon.

Here it is for shotguns, which can be "assault weapons":

(b) a semiautomatic shotgun that has at least  two  of  the  following
    (i) a folding or telescoping stock;
    (ii)  a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of
  the weapon;
    (iii) a fixed magazine capacity in excess of five rounds;
    (iv) an ability to accept a detachable magazine; or 
(c) a semiautomatic pistol that has an ability to accept a  detachable
  magazine and has at least two of the following characteristics:
    (i)  an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the
  pistol grip;
    (ii) a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel  extender,  flash
  suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer;
    (iii)  a  shroud  that  is  attached  to,  or  partially or completely
  encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold  the  firearm
  with the nontrigger hand without being burned;
    (iv)  a manufactured weight of fifty ounces or more when the pistol is
    (v) a semiautomatic version of an automatic rifle, shotgun or firearm;
Finally, specific models that are considered "assault weapons":
(d) any of the weapons, or functioning frames  or  receivers  of  such
  weapons,  or copies or duplicates of such weapons, in any caliber, known
    (i) Norinco, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (all
    (ii) Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil;
    (iii) Beretta Ar70 (SC-70);
    (iv) Colt AR-15;
    (v) Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, and FNC;
    (vi) SWD M-10, M-11, M-11/9, and M-12;
    (vii) Steyr AUG;
    (viii) INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9 and TEC-22; and
    (ix) revolving cylinder shotguns, such as (or similar to)  the  Street
  Sweeper and Striker 12;
Here are some exceptions:
(e) provided, however, that such term does not include: (i) any rifle,
  shotgun  or pistol that (A) is manually operated by bolt, pump, lever or
  slide action; (B) has been rendered permanently inoperable; or (C) is an
  antique firearm as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(16);
    (ii)  a  semiautomatic  rifle that cannot accept a detachable magazine
  that holds more than five rounds of ammunition;
    (iii) a semiautomatic shotgun that cannot hold more than  five  rounds
  of ammunition in a fixed or detachable magazine;
    (iv)  a rifle, shotgun or pistol, or a replica or a duplicate thereof,
  specified in Appendix A to section 922 of 18 U.S.C. as such  weapon  was
  manufactured  on  October first, nineteen hundred ninety-three. The mere
  fact that a weapon is not listed in Appendix A shall not be construed to
  mean that such weapon is an assault weapon; or
    (v) a semiautomatic rifle, a semiautomatic shotgun or a  semiautomatic
  pistol  or  any  of  the  weapons  defined  in  paragraph  (d)  of  this
  subdivision lawfully possessed prior to September  fourteenth,  nineteen
  hundred ninety-four.
And on another note, here's the blotter for last night.
Jan. 3 blotter

Not much to see here. No arrests made. A few incidents of harassment. One report of subject in store "making strange comments," but that's about it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read the official definition of an assault weapon before. However it would seem that any weapon that has a 30 bullet magazine, with several more in a bag, being carried by an angry shooter with a grudge is an assault weapon. I believe the definition should change to reflect that fact particularly after the slaughter at Sandy Hook School.

January 3, 2013 at 3:02 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Lucian, for injecting some rational comments and much needed clarification into this debate.

January 3, 2013 at 3:42 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interested to learn that the mayor of only one city in the Capital District Region is not a member of the national organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Only Scott Johnson, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, refuses to take a public position even against “illegal guns.”

The mayors of every city in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties have joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Yes, the mayors of Albany, Cohoes, Mechanicville, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Troy, and Watervliet are all members. But not the mayor of Saratoga Springs. The mayors of Glens Falls, Plattsburgh and Poughkeepsie; Ithaca, Jamestown and Kingston; Newburgh, Oneonta, Olean and Monticello are also members.

According to a "Saratoga Wire" online story today the mayor didn't seem to really know if he was a member or not. He's not but we wonder why not.

January 3, 2013 at 4:00 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saratoga has some of the most intelligent people in the world...Caring people who would must rather "rely on intelligence" for their safety than extreme firepower...Mayor Johnson should join these people...We need to put an end to these weapons....America needs Federal laws that have "teeth in all states".....While it may be fun to fire these weapons "just because we can"...Is that a good enough reason to keep them around??

January 3, 2013 at 7:06 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucian, thank you for reporting on the Council meeting. You report it as it is. I watched the Council Meeting on the website.

I listened to a local tv channel & read other reports, and they seemed to represent the reporter's bias. For example, they reported the anti gun show petition to have over 1000 signatures, but neglected to add the pro gun show had over 1500 signatures although it was started a week after the protest petition.

Your integrity is commendable.

January 3, 2013 at 7:09 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mayors of Cities are not the answer...Federal gun laws that outlaw these weapons and prevent sales of them as well as the "clips" that are "pre-ban will be a serious start in all states...Handguns should be limited to "caliber" as well as clip size...No one in this Country needs these weapons for "home self defense"....No one should be allowed to sell these weapons or "extended clips" over their kitchen table...No one should be allowed in any of our states this right....Federal Gun Law will eventually win...Good things take time...Anyone caught with these weapons.. Nation wide..Selling..or committing any crime with them needs harsh consistent Federal punishment....Federal law making up our gun laws can make this happen....No one should ever be allowed to cross State borders for easier access to these weapons....One Country...One gun law....Semi automatic pistol laws need to fall under these gun laws....These high capacity Semi automatic pistols should NEVER be allowed for carry unless they are carried by Law Enforcement or Military...Shooting them may be fun for the shooter but for the general population they mean nothing more than fear...or death....

January 3, 2013 at 8:59 PM 
Blogger flyingace said...

you all have just been duped into the Obama Gun Stimulus program. By merely hinting at legislation to ban certain guns and high capacity magazines, Obama has assured that many many many more of these devices are now in the hands of the citizens of this country. in fact, many gun dealers have sold out of their inventory and have back-orders. The only thing these tragic events have done is actually put more weapons and such in the hands of the citizens for fear of not being able to purchase them in the future.

January 3, 2013 at 10:58 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the city council cannot find something better to do than insert itself into the national gun debate, I know that my voting preferences will change markedly next election.

That having been said, I pay tax dollars and my money goes towards public facilities such as the City Center. I will damned if a group of people who don't choose to exercise their rights under the 2nd Amendment are going to dictate to me how I do so.

About the clown who commented on Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group should simply be called "Mayors Against Guns." So, to be candid, I'm glad Scott Johnson is NOT a member. I would encourage him not to ruin his reputation by lending his name to a group that doesn't even have the courage to state what they are actually for.

January 4, 2013 at 4:07 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the council will be as proactive with resolutions to limit other activities that bring known dangers into our community. Guns are far from our worst problem in this city.

In light of the recent tragedy outside Dango's, I would hope to see a resolution asking the Automobile Museum rethink it's operations. We can't have them holding car shows, where citizens, some children, are walking by parked cars, with rear view mirrors sticking off them.

If a man, being escorted by three 'trained professionals' outside of Dango's can find himself hospitalized because of a rear view mirror on an automoblile, what chance do private citizens, walking alone, have?

This madness has to stop. It's time for the council to demand that Automobile Museum stop encouraging events with so many parked cars, and possibly consider a moratorium on any parked cars in the city limits. It's about the safety of our citizens.

January 4, 2013 at 9:33 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anytime a government body wastes time discusing and passing a resolution they cannot enforce does not gain my respect or vote.

There dozens of other issues in Saratoga Springs that need fixing. Take a look around and you too will see them.

January 4, 2013 at 12:28 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Governor on New York State just supported with open arms a major gun show at a State owned facility. This show from a major liberal base was just that - a show. Guns do not kill people - people do. The laws pertaining to background checks have been circumvented for years.To waste council time and resources to discuss this item at length in what I consider the most unprofessional meeting I have ever seen as a Council Meeting reflects just how low people need to go to egt their point across. How many speakers who opposed the gun show have ever spoken out against guns since Columbine, Virginia Tech, the issue outside of Rochester. The answer is none. The question is why now. The answer is that it fits their left wing agenda and in some cases reflects their ignorance to the real problem. The system is not equipped and has deteriorate over the years to see the warning signs and ensure the necessary programs and additional phycholical help are addressed. This city has lost two employees this year. One a former FF and one an employee of DPW. The people around them knew of the problem.People 1000 miles away knew of the problem. Did anyone step up to ensure these people got the necessary help. The answer is no. Crying wolf after the fact is almost hypocritical. We will never know if we could have saved these people. The question is why didn't anyone chose to bite the bullet and try. Save the political propoganda and return to the values and decenxy when people looked after their co-worker or nieghbor. The answer is they have deteriorate to a point where the value system has been jeopardized. Save me the selfserving sppeches and work as a city, state and country to create a solution to this challenge and stop using it for politiccal purposes or ideology!!

January 4, 2013 at 2:29 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you forgot to mention lies, defamation and slander to your description of saratoga in decline.

January 4, 2013 at 10:46 PM 
Blogger Lucian said...

True enough, Anonymous 10:46, those are there too, though slander is only if he spoke it or otherwise broadcast it. In his case, it is libel, since it is written, and then it is only alleged because it hasn't been proven (don't want to libel him!).

January 5, 2013 at 10:45 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you realize that guns are being sold at several local auctions!
You can drive to Gloversville NY and buy rifles, shotguns, etc. on most Friday nights!
The Auction is Belknap's Auction all you need is a license to register and then you bid, no checks on you at all, Buy,Pay, and you have a Gun! It is that easy.
Here in Saratoga at least your background is being checked and sold almost 100 percent legal!
You can almost always buy a Gun or two from the Cobleskill Auction for cash! Just ask Bill!
He likes cash for he has been involved in Gun matters before

January 11, 2013 at 9:53 AM 

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