Democrat Owens Joins Local Republicans in Opposing Assault Rifle Bans
US Representative Bill Owens, the Democrat who represents Lake George and most of the Adirondack Park in Congress, will break with his party’s leaders and oppose President Obama’s proposals to ban assault weapons and limit ammunition magazines to ten rounds.
“I represent a rural Congressional District where hunting and sport-shooting are common practice for many, and so I remain concerned over any effort to restrict the right of gun-ownership for law abiding citizens,” said Owens.
The proposals are among the comprehensive gun control reforms supported by Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats’ leader in the House of Representatives.
“Congress must do its part, without further delay, to take the most dangerous weapons and assault magazines out of the hands of those in greatest danger of doing harm to themselves and to others,” Pelosi said on January 16.
Speaking at the opening of his district office in Glens Falls on January 30, Owens said he could vote in favor of stronger background checks of gun purchasers and measures that would disrupt illegal gun trafficking.
“I believe we can do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,” Owens said.
But the Congressman added that in his view, banning assault weapons would do little to reduce crime.
“Most crimes are committed with hand guns,” said.
Assault weapons are purchased primarily by collectors and recreational shooters, Owens said.
A veteran, Owens said that he himself does not own guns.
Asked if he believed firearms were necessary for self-protection, Owens said, “whether it’s realistic to say that guns will protect your home and your family, that requires further study, but the fact is that the Supreme Court has interpreted the second amendment to mean that citizens have the right keep arms to protect themselves.”
In New York, Lake George’s state legislators also opposed measures controlling the spread of assault weapons and high capacity magazines, two provisions of new legislation signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on January 16.
Freshman Assemblyman Dan Stec, the former supervisor of Queensbury, said, “I could not support a bill that severely restricts the constitutional rights of our sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts and ignores overwhelming information that shows restricting access to firearms is not a solution to solving gun violence in our communities.”
State Senator Betty Little also voted against the bill, known as the NY Safe Act. According to Little, “The vast majority of constituents who called and emailed my office did so in opposition to the proposed gun control measures. I think we should have taken more time to consider the impact of the legislation on those who have been and would continue to be lawful in their ownership and use of firearms.”
Even Warren County Sheriff Bud York, who rarely if ever comments personally and publicly on the actions of state officials, criticized the NY Safe Act.
While stating that he was “confident that all Sheriffs will enforce the duly enacted laws of New York, as required by their oath of office,” York added, “it is far from certain that many (of the law’s provisions) will have any significant effect in reducing gun violence, which is the presumed goal of all of us.”
Warren County Republican Committee chairman Mike Grasso said that political expediency, if nothing else, prohibits Congressman Owens from supporting stricter gun controls.
“He has to stay in step with the district. We have a heavy concentration of sportsmen. If he supports new gun controls, it will be the nail in his coffin. His political career will be over,” said Grasso.
But, Grasso added, he takes Owens at his word that he’s a supporter of gun owners’ rights.
“He has the highest rating possible from the National Rifle Association. I hope he remains true to those colors,” said Grasso.