Staggering their entrances by 15 minutes, opponents in the 11th Senate District race missed a face-to-face confrontation on gun control last Wednesday.
Republican incumbent Frank Padavan and Democratic challenger Rory Lancman spoke at a candidates’ night before members of the Queens chapter of the Million Mom March in Douglaston.
Lancman spoke first then left, relinquishing the floor to a late-arriving Padavan who was at another civic meeting.
The evening was centered on a set of gun control measures signed into law by Governor George Pataki on August 9th, with Lancman contending the measures are “weak” and Padavan saying they are the “strictest in the country.”
But the challenge continued later in the week via a press release as Lancman, whose staff remained at the meeting, fired off a barb accusing Padavan of “lying” about aspects of the gun control legislation which he sponsored.
Prior to either candidate speaking, Million Mom leader Joan Gold said both candidates had sponsored a bus for the group’s march on Washington last Mother’s Day.
Addressing an audience of about 60 people, Gold, who was shot at and “almost killed” in an incident 10 years ago, said she is a neophyte to the political process, “a concerned person, just like you, who is sick and tired of kids getting blown away.”
She added that about 30,000 people each year, including 12 children a day, die as a result of gunfire, about half being suicides.
The group, she says, does not favor either political party and claims she herself is “politically challenged.”
The marchers advocate “common sense gun control” measures such as licensing of all handguns and strict oversight of gun manufacturers. The group is lobbying anyone in the political process who will help them, Gold said.
Lancman said he favored tougher control laws short of calling for a complete ban of concealed weapons. On that issue, Lancman said he agrees there are some people who are not in law enforcement, such as store owners, who have legitimate reasons for carrying weapons.
Lancman also contended that the Republicans, who hold a majority in the state Senate, have blocked gun control measures for years. That changed when several recent highly-publicized school shootings pushed Governor Pataki to seek reforms.
The Senate, he maintained, reluctantly agreed to the measures because the public had become sensitive to the issue during an upcoming election year.
The Democratic challenger then read from a sheet detailing Padavan’s “record.” He claimed Padavan had voted with his upstate colleagues against: a ban on assault weapons five times and 50-caliber machine guns; directing a study of “junk” guns often used in violent crimes; establishing a gun tracer program; renewable licenses and a gun safety course; establishing a minimum age for handgun ownership and gun show background checks.
When Pataki asked for some of these reforms, particularly a ban on assault weapons, Lancman said the Senate approved the “weakest” ban, one that mirrored a federal law passed in 1994. The ban also only pertained to new weapons, not the thousands of assault weapons already on the market.
Lancman also said Padavan voted for a measure allowing people with gun-carrying permits to enter New York City. “That’s hundreds of thousands of people each year,” he said. “That’s unacceptable.”
The challenger also asserted that Padavan’s recent legislation did require trigger locks on guns, but did not require the actual use of such devices, something the Million Mom marchers advocate.
Padavan said finding out whether gun owners are using the trigger locks at home would be difficult if not impossible since law enforcement officials “don’t have access to homes.”
Anyone who doesn’t use them, Padavan asserted, “was a fool.”
Lancman said the Republicans did “the least they could do.” As a Democrat, Lancman claimed he would seek the controls the Million Mom marchers wanted, work with Senator Charles Schumer on the national level for federal legislation and not be “cowed or bullied by the NRA (National Rifle Association).”
When Padavan arrived and was given a copy of Lancman’s sheet detailing his record, he said the sheet was untrue and was filled with distortions and “political nonsense.”
Padavan’s staff circulated their own press release detailing Padavan’s attempt in 1989 to pass legislation banning a military assault rifle after five elementary school children were killed in Stockton, California.
Padavan contended that this effort in 1989 laid the groundwork for the legislation that was signed in August, an 11-year campaign that began long before the current election year as Lancman claimed.
“It was worth the wait,” said the long-time senator. “We got much more than an assault weapons ban.”
The law, which the New York Times dubbed “the strictest gun controls in the country,” included measures tried in a few other states, though “no other state has as broad a combination of restrictions,” the Times states.
The measures, which go into effect November 1st include: the ballistic-fingerprinting of all new handguns; a ban on new assault weapons mirroring the federal law (the state law was needed so enforcement could take place in state courts); background checks at gun shows; required trigger locks; an increase in the legal age to get a handgun permit; funding for a state policy study of the sources of illegal guns; and instructions to the state police to study “smart gun” technology that would allow a gun to be fired only by its legal owner.
Padavan was also angered that Lancman derided his record, saying he has been a target of the NRA for years.
“I’ve taken the heat, the threats, and the abuse from certain strong-willed people,” he said, declining to mention the NRA by name. “I’ve taken the leadership. That’s the record that I’ll stand on.”
Padavan, an engineer, hunter and retired military colonel, wondered aloud how “anyone could have been more aggressive on gun control than me.”
He said a Democrat in the Senate wouldn’t help the interests of local citizens because Republicans have enacted tougher penalties on criminals.