In the aftermath of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 people dead, New Castle Town Board members sent two separate letters to New York State Senator, Terrence Murphy (R-NY, District 40) seeking his support on a slate of gun control measures. The letters dated February 16, 2018 and March 28, 2018 make specific references to proposed bills currently under consideration in the New York State Senate.
In the letter dated February 16, the Town Board cited three examples of how gun violence has impacted the Chappaqua community over a span of approximately 20 years. The letter went on to request Senator Murphy’s support for certain measures, such as legislation that keeps firearms out of the hands of those who have been convicted of domestic violence charges and the surrender of shotguns and rifles when an order of protection is issued in a domestic violence case.
In a follow-up letter dated March 28, the Town Board sought Senator Murphy’s support of nine proposed bills that would strengthen the SAFE Act (New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013). The SAFE Act prevents criminals and the mentally ill from purchasing firearms, requires a universal background check on gun purchases and imposes the toughest assault weapons ban in the country. Some examples of the proposed bills to bolster the SAFE Act include a ban of bump stocks, stronger background checks and allowing the state government to access mental health record from the home state of non-resident gun license applicants. New Castle Town Supervisor, Robert Greenstein stated: “We are firmly committed to advocating for stronger and more effective gun control laws. This requires the assistance and cooperation of our state representatives, which is why we wrote the letter.”
According to a February, 2018 NBC News poll, 66% of people favor stricter gun laws in the country, with nine out of 10 Americans agreeing for universal background checks. As cited by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, from 2012-2016, an average of 116,255 people are shot every year due to guns, while 96 fatalities result from gun violence every day.
New Castle Council Member Ivy Pool noted that at least three public meetings addressing gun violence have been held since February and that the town has also held events to raise awareness. For example, on March 3rd, Mom’s Demand Action gathered at Chappaqua Station to discuss opportunities for local area residents to get involved in the efforts to end gun violence on the local, State, and Federal level. Over 50 people attended.
When asked to comment about his stance on combatting gun violence, Senator Murphy’s Director of Communication, Michael Jefferson stated: “Senator Murphy will continue building productive partnerships with schools, community organizations, and his fellow legislators to ensure every child who enters the doors of a school can do so with the peace of mind that they are and will remain safe.” Jefferson outlined a multitude of bills that Murphy is sponsoring in order to combat gun violence.
For example, Bill S7811, would establish a School Resource Officer (SRO) education program to reimburse school districts outside of New York City and $50,000 for the hiring of a SRO. In addition, Senator Murphy also proposed Bill S7813 which makes school shootings an act of domestic terrorism and Bill S7790 that provides state education aid for school district that expend resources to improve security and safety technology. However, Council Member Pool stated that while Senator Murphy’s office acknowledged receipt of the February 16th letter, there were no specific responses to the Town Board’s requests. “It was unclear whether Senator Murphy supported the gun violence prevention legislation for which we were advocating,” Pool stated.
As well as seeking support from the New York State Senate for the slate of gun control bills, the Town Board has been working on local measures to strengthen gun control in New Castle. Pool has presented her fellow Council Members with a package of local legislative proposals and laws that they can pass to promote gun safety within the community. “We are currently researching these ideas, and determining their legality and applicability for our town. The first proposal we are tackling is the regulation of gun shops, which might include both the location of FFL (Federal Firearms License) dealers as well as local licensing.”
Greenstein stated, “The Town Board firmly believes that gun control, and making sure our schools remain safe, are local issues… we will continue to lobby for legislative changes on the state level that will make New Castle safer.”