CROTON-ON-HUDSON, NY — April 8, 2018 — On March 14, the one-month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida school shooting, I attended a town hall hosted by Democratic NYS Senate candidate, Robert Kesten, titled “Gun Safety and the US Constitution.” Mr. Kesten coherently and knowledgeably described the history of Constitutional amendments, pointing out that there are limits to these amendments, the classic being the first amendment of freedom of speech does not mean you can yell “fire” in a movie theater. By extension, Mr. Kesten posited that the second amendment does not mean any individual can possess any sort of firearm, and that resistance to common sense gun control efforts are generated more from a culture of fear rather than a respect for the second amendment.
Coincidentally, former US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens expanded on that argument on the limits and downright abuse of the second amendment in an opinion piece in the New York Times on March 27, 2018.
At his March 14th Town Hall meeting, Mr. Kesten then continued to outline several pieces of proposed state legislation to increase common sense gun control laws.
These bills include proposals to expand background checks for gun purchases and the Extreme Risk Protection Order S5447 which grants judicial authority to confiscate guns from a person deemed a risk to themselves or others. Mr. Kesten noted that these gun control bills have passed in the New York State Assembly but have been stymied in the New York State Senate. Mr. Kesten went on to share that New York Senate proposals have focused on more reactive “bunker mentality” legislation such as increased numbers of school resource officers. I was impressed with Mr. Kesten’s understanding of the issues, his willingness to hold a town hall about this timely topic, and to engage in dialogue with concerned individuals.
After this town hall, I called New York State Senator Terence Murphy’s office, to see if I could get his views on gun legislation in New York, particularly in light of the subsequent school shooting in Great Mills, Maryland. Mr. Murphy’s Chief Director of Community Affairs shared that Mr. Murphy is in favor of “certain aspects” of the current NYS Safe Act, New York’s most current and most comprehensive gun control legislation. However, he could not elaborate on which aspects of the Safe Act Mr. Murphy supported nor was he aware of Mr. Murphy’s stance on Extreme Risk Protection Order S5447. The Director said he would have a conversation with Mr. Murphy to get an update on where he stands on these pieces of gun control legislation and get back to me. To date I have not received a return phone call or an email.
I continue to be perplexed by Mr. Murphy’s unresponsiveness to the needs of his constituents when they call and ask for clarity on his policies. He works for us and should answer our questions in a town hall without us having to make repeat phone calls. We deserve better.