Maloney Calls for Assault-Rifle Ban

Boos and heated debate at forum on gun violence

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney on March 3 called for banning the sale of the AR-15 rifles, praising students for “doing a better job than Congress,” and endorsed new initiatives in school security.

The three-term Democrat, whose district includes Philipstown and Beacon, spoke in Poughkeepsie at a forum he organized on gun violence in schools. Constituents sometimes spoke politely; at other times, heatedly; and often at length.

Beacon Gun-Violence Forum

Maloney will hold a forum on gun violence at the Howland Cultural Center at 477 Main St. at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 11.

Maloney, who lives in Philipstown, chastised those in the audience of more than 200 who sometimes booed when people spoke. “I’m the one you should boo,” he said. “Your neighbors you don’t get to boo.”

The event, intended to last 60 minutes, continued for nearly two-and-a-half hours. Scheduled for Poughkeepsie High School, it moved to the Family Partnership Center after the school received an unrelated threat of violence, later dismissed. It also reflected national concerns after the Feb. 14 killings of students and teachers at a Parkland, Florida, high school.

At the forum, Maloney repeatedly argued that Second Amendment protections have been limited by U.S. Supreme Court rulings. “You have a right to own a handgun, possibly a shotgun, in your home for personal protection,” he said. “What they have never said is that anyone has a Second Amendment right to own anything more than that.” Therefore, he said, banning AR-15s or similar military-style rifles “is not a Second Amendment issue.”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney listens to an audience member on March 3 during a forum (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)

Maloney backed more funding for school districts to hire police officers and for mental health treatment but added, “I want to talk about guns, too.”

Freya Wood-Gallagher, a junior at Haldane High School, agreed. “I don’t think it’s possible to take guns out of this issue.” In the Parkland killings, she said, the problem was that the 19-year-old assailant obtained a powerful gun. “You can’t have this mass killing with any other weapon,” she said.

Other teens also spoke; most advocated stronger gun control. A high school student named Grace said she didn’t feel safe at school. “I’m supposed to be worrying about homework and I’m worrying about dying,” she said.

Samuel, a 16-year-old who attends Arlington High School, said students want the federal government to act, and warned that when those with political authority fail to respond to a popular outcry, violent revolution can occur. “If we don’t reform, something will happen,” he cautioned.

This style of AR-15 was used in Parkland to kill 17 people.

“I’d give elections a try first,” Maloney advised. He said “students have been doing a better job than Congress recently” addressing issues such as gun violence, and quipped that voters should replace it with teenagers. “I’ll go, too,” he offered.

Declan, a 17-year-old student at John Jay High School, objected that “people pick on AR-15s.” He criticized proposals to raise the age of gun ownership to 21, as in a bill passed in Florida on Wednesday (March 7).

Declan also argued that a person intent on murder will find a way, suggested that schools ban backpacks and lockers because they can conceal guns, and urged a focus on mental health.

John Collins of Monroe, who mentioned 44 years of military service and a a National Rifle Association membership, echoed that view. “People kill people, and they don’t care what the law says,” he told Maloney. He said he supported a ban on machine guns but not AR-15s.

Maloney said “law-abiding gun owners are not the problem” and assured gun-rights proponents that “I’m really glad you came; I really want you in the conversation.”

He stressed that “you haven’t heard from me that we have to collect every gun in circulation,” but if the AR-15 were out of the picture, “maybe we will save lives.”

24 thoughts on “Maloney Calls for Assault-Rifle Ban

  1. If they want to kill masses and don’t have the gun to do it they will make bombs (if they want to kill, they will) — the focus has to be on securing the schools as well as we secure airports and federal buildings. Having a dog that can detect drugs and weapons is a wonderful way to help. Maybe all schools should have dog-training classes, as well as other classes. It’s a win win! Use the schools to train dogs and use them to protect as well as train. We need to think outside the box here!

    • There are not bombs exploding all the time in America. Why? Bomb ingredients are deliberately hard to get, and purchasers are closely monitored. Not so with guns – easy to acquire, thus the insane gun-death stats in America (compared to other countries with stricter laws).

      How is a dog in a school going to help when someone is walking toward the front door clutching an AR-15?

      No need to “think outside the box.” Change the gun laws.

    • Making it illegal to buy guns will not stop people from getting them. I notice no one is focusing on the mental illness of each one of these mass shooters — I don’t hear people screaming for affordable mental health facilities and medications. How about support groups for kids with bad parents or no parents. Banning guns will not solve anything. Sadly, we cannot fix stupid, and there is just so much of it.

    • States with “tough gun laws” also have mass shootings. Why? Because what America describes as a tough gun law is still a thousand times more lax than any other developed nation — guns move easily across state lines. So, this needs to be mandated at a federal level to have any real effect.

      Trucks are easy to acquire. They are not designed to kill, but are used to kill occasionally. But it’s not worth outlawing trucks; the benefits of trucks clearly outweigh the negatives. That’s not so with guns. Can we seriously say prevalence of easily-acquired guns is a net benefit to the majority of Americans?

      Making guns illegal will make it much harder for bad people to get them. Not impossible, but much harder. That is the point.

      As for mental health, people are focusing on that. Again, America is an outlier here versus the rest of the world. It has a dismal healthcare system and too many people fall through the cracks. Support groups for troubled families is a great idea. It would definitely help in conjunction with everything else.

    • That’s exactly how Hitler felt. He took the guns and the rest is history!

    • Bullies without guns are no better, that is what pushes these kids off the edge. But let’s keep looking in the wrong direction and blaming guns. It goes way beyond guns that makes these things happen.

    • A good beginning would be to reopen the mental institutions.

    • We need to focus on the mental health of all the children and yes having facilities that specialize and treat the ones who don’t belong among the general society – the ones who will find a gun regardless of a law. Too many mentally ill don’t get the help they need, it’s very sad. With all this gun talk no one will focus on the real problem.

  2. So this is a reason to embrace killing machines? What you’re describing is a prison, not a school.

  3. Globalists: First we’ll ban the assault rifles, that’s an easy one with the word “assault” and the menacing look of the gun. Then we’ll push even harder and go for all rifles. You’ll have to check them out to go hunting and then return them. Then it’s a home run when we ban all handguns. Confiscations everywhere. Get locked up if you don’t hand ’em over.
    Me: So when the government has ALL the guns, what do you think happens next? (This is where you insert critical thinking.)

    • No one is coming for anyone’s handgun or hunting rifle. There is absolutely no need for a military-grade weapon.

    • It would be impossible to outlaw them because there are so many of them, and a lot of veterans have spent a ton of money customizing them. If you make outlaws of these brave patriots, you are teetering on a civil war that I could pretty much guarantee Democrats would lose. Most handguns are semi-automatic, just like the assault rifle, so hard to argue no one is coming for them.

    • What does globalism have to do with anything? It’s a poor “slippery slope” argument: If we ban speeding, soon we’ll ban all cars. That doesn’t make sense either. An approach to the problem of disturbed people having guns has to be, certainly in part, to prevent them from having guns.

  4. There is no such thing as an “assault” rifle. Assault is a verb. They are semi-automatic and automatic. Automatic rifles are already banned. I don’t hunt. I defend myself against criminals and tyrannical governments.

  5. I am grateful Maloney has taken this up, and for the opportunity for dialogue. Yes, it’s “people who kill people,” but not without means. People using automatic/semi-automatic weapons are responsible for the mass-killings students have become the target for. We can’t cure people as easily as we can curb gun sales. This country has not been great about dealing with people with mental disorders, but people have suffered them as long as mankind has been around and these mass killings have only become “the thing” since the advent of the weaponry that allows them, so the choice of protecting the innocent from gun-toting individuals or letting them have at us seems like a no-brainer to me.

  6. Let’s think outside the box. In the 1950s and earlier, deaths by automobile accident were considered unavoidable and a necessary byproduct of automobile use (and obviously drinking and driving was just something people inevitably did). Slowly but surely, attitudes changed, and highway deaths per miles driven have fallen dramatically. Now most Americans expect to survive an automobile accident, even a fairly severe one.

    Similarly, we need to be talking about gun safety. I agree with many who argue that to some extent the cat is out of the bag when it comes to guns and gun sales. If there is a whole group of people in our society that insist that they need to have guns — and already have a fair number stockpiled — than it is incumbent upon us all to insist on gun safety. To this end, I believe that there must be safety licensing for gun ownership at least as stringent as for operating an automobile.

    It should be incumbent upon gun manufacturers to make their products safe, and they should be liable for the consequences of unsafe guns in society. Heck, I’m liable if someone slips and falls on ice in front of my building. A gun manufacturer should be liable if humans die due to the inherently unsafe characteristics of their product.

    It must be mandated that guns be made incapable of mass shootings, and furthermore that they be made incapable of operation without a proper license. If this sounds outlandish, remember that the concept of safely surviving an automobile accident was once outlandish.

    Regarding the technology of gun safety, I concede that there are more than enough guns out in the wild to continue to perpetrate harm to society until we are all old and tired of this issue. So let’s talk about bullets.

    I have always like Chris Rock’s idea: “You don’t need no gun control, you know what you need? We need some bullet control… we need to control the bullets, that’s right. I think all bullets should cost $5,000. Five thousand dollars per bullet. You know why? Cause if a bullet cost $5,000 there would be no more innocent bystanders.”

  7. Terrible idea. The argument would be so much more persuasive were governments worthy of trust. But they aren’t.

    Citizens only have rights and freedoms to the extent that they are armed. This is the first, last, and only lesson of history to be learned.

    The precipitating reason this country came into existence was in reaction to a “gun grab” on the part of the British government, of which the British American Colonies from their founding were part of. See Lexington and Concord, Battles, 1775. King George actually hated the Colonials for their “freedoms”, and for the “rights” which they had the temerity to assert. See the Declaration of Independence, 1776, T. Jefferson, et. al.

    All governments, most particularly the least legitimate, tend towards authoritarianism, and in consequence to fears (they have so much more to lose than anyone else) they claim a “monopoly of the legitimate use of force” (the concept was codified by Max Weber) within their territories. Ultimately and finally this impels governments to try to disarm, terrorize and finally enslave the people. It’s a strategy as old as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

    By the way, the 2nd Amendment does not refer to “guns”, or to “assault rifles”. “Arms” are mentioned. In today’s parlance, that means “armaments” – all kinds weaponry – armored vehicles, grenades, and so on. The intent was that the people were to be armed in the context of citizen militias, there was to be no standing federal or state armies (just professional officer consultants to be used in times of war), and the government, not the people, were to live in fear of reprisal and consequences of bad behavior and bad acting.

    As to arguments that Europeans or any others are somehow free even though their citizens are not armed, that Europe is free and its citizens have the right to vote is due solely to the influence by example of the freedoms and rights established and relentlessly defended by Americans (finally it was due to massive military interventions in the two world wars). Mostly this is the history of Europe from the nineteenth to the first half of the twentieth centuries. Before then, and in the meantime, many if not most Europeans yearning for freedoms, rights, and opportunity emigrated to the American colonies to flee the arbitrary rule of its kings and emperors.