President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union address of his second term in office Tuesday night. He saved an emotional and divisive topic for the end of his speech: gun control.
President Obama referred to Former U.S. Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who attended the speech, and is pushing for Congress to approve gun-control measures. She is recovering from a shooting two years ago in Tucson.
“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote,” the president said to thunderous applause. “The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence - they deserve a simple vote.”
As for whether gun-control measures deserve a vote, Republican Congressman Chris Gibson said, “Well, certainly that would be fine by me. My constituents know where I stand on all of this.”
Gibson’s 19th Congressional District in New York runs through 11 counties, including in the Hudson Valley.
“And what I think, regrettably, some of these proposals, they’re targeting law abiding citizens,” he continued, “which isn’t ultimately going to help us on this pressing issue.”
“I think matters of mental health treatment, that should really be a focus point right now. And in particular, I’ve received some good recommendations from some of the local leaders I have with regard to the Medicaid program and how it supports mental health treatment. I think we can take a look at how that program is structured,” Gibson said.
Democratic Congressman from the Hudson Valley Sean Patrick Maloney said he opposes measures that step on the toes of law-abiding citizens.
“There are some common sense things we can do,” Maloney said. “But we should start by saying that people have a Second Amendment right to own a gun, to defend themselves in their own homes, and I respect that."
"And I also respect hunters and I respect sportsmen, and we shouldn’t do anything that affects those folks because they’re not a threat to anybody,” he continued.
He continued, “But what we should do are things like universal background checks, which I think might really get at the problem and be effective.”
Maloney said there should be emphasis on better identifying those who are mentally ill and who could have access to guns. “Particularly, I think we can do some common sense things on military-style high capacity magazine clips and I think we’ve got to crack down on illegal gun trafficking, which is also something that would be effective in reducing violence. So because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.”
The federal discussion on gun control occurs during a time when New York has a new gun control measure. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or NY SAFE Act, as it is known, Jan. 15, saying New York is the first state in the nation to ban any magazine that can hold more than seven rounds and run instant background checks on all ammunition purchases at the time of sale. The Act was signed one month after the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Congressman Gibson is concerned about the effect on law abiding citizens. “I think there is wide consensus that we want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those not in the right mental state to have access to guns,” he said. “So looking at background checks is very appropriate.”
“But I don’t support the gun ban. Again, I think that targets law abiding citizens, and I don’t think that solves the problem. Quite frankly, I think that divides,” Gibson continued.
“It certainly divides in my district, where I can tell you I’ve heard from so many constituents. Certainly I hear from those on both sides, but I’ve heard from so many constituents that they’re very upset about what happened with the New York state law.”
And by gun ban, he referred to semi-automatic weapons.
The law has both its detractors and supporters. Yet Congressman Maloney said he falls in the middle.
“There’s things I like and things I don’t in the New York SAFE Act,” he said.
In addition to the measures he outlined that he does support, Maloney outlined his approach to the federal
gun-control discussion. “I don’t like some of the symbolic efforts to just threaten the legitimate gun rights of law abiding Americans,” he said.
Democratic Congressman Bill Owens, whose district includes New York’s North Country, has some predictions about where any gun-control measures are headed. “Well, I think there’s a very good chance that Senator Gillibrand’s bill on gun money will move,” Owens said.
He continued, “I also think we’re likely to see legislation move on background checks. But I don’t think we’re likely to see anything further than that in terms of broader, if you will, gun control legislation. That I think is going to be very difficult, and I think it’s a very partisan and very emotional issue.”
He referred to U.S. Democratic Senator from New York Kirsten Gillibrand’s legislation that defines gun trafficking as a federal crime. Gillibrand introduced The Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013 with U.S. Republican Senator from Illinois Mark Kirk.