The Kingston Common Council is poised to jump into the divisive debate around gun control. A council committee will consider a memorializing resolution calling on state and federal officials to impose stricter controls on firearms and reject donations from gun rights groups like the NRA. The resolution is expected to be introduced by council Majority Leader Rennie Scott-Childress (D-Ward 3) at a March 21 meeting of the council’s Laws and Rules Committee. If it receives a second, the resolution will go before the full council at its regular April meeting.
“We clearly want to be protecting people from firearm violence,” said Scott-Childress. “We’re asking our legislators at the state and federal level to do everything they can to look at how firearms impact how we relate to one another.”
Scott-Childress, a professor of American History at SUNY New Paltz, drafted the nearly 800-word resolution in response to the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. which left 17 students and staff members dead. A version of the resolution has already passed the New Paltz Village Board.
The resolution, titled “a memorializing resolution calling on state and federal officials to act now to eradicate the use of firearms in mass shootings and unlawful acts of violence,” consists of 25 paragraphs laying out statistics on gun violence, the legal basis for regulation of firearms and arguments in favor of stricter gun laws. The resolution begins by referencing the rise in mass shootings in recent years and declaring that Americans have the right to attend school, church and public entertainments without fear of gun violence. The resolution refers to high rates of gun violence and suicide by gun in the United States, compared with nations like Canada and Great Britain with stricter gun laws.
The resolution goes on to criticize “firearms ownership advocacy organizations” like the NRA, claiming that the groups “have irresponsibly pushed to make the use of firearms an accepted response to anger and fear” and “recklessly advocated the use of firearms as a simplistic answer to an array of social problems.” Another section of the resolution links New York’s strict gun laws to the state’s low rates of gun crime, while criticizing some state senators who have voted against “common sense” gun laws like a ban on bump stocks, improved background checks and state funding for research on gun violence. Scott-Childress’s resolution also takes a shot at U.S. Rep. John Faso’s vote in favor of federal concealed carry “reciprocity” legislation that would allow gun owners from states with lax gun laws to legally carry firearms in states like New York with much tougher standards for issuing concealed carry permits.
“They want to take the easiest concealed carry laws in the country and ipso facto make them New York’s laws,” said Scott-Childress.
The resolution concludes with a call for elected officials to enact eight policies including a ban on the production, sale and possession “of all classes of weapons that do not serve the specific uses of personal protection and sport shooting.” The resolution also calls for the repeal of a federal law the bars the U.S. Centers for Disease Control from studying the epidemiology of gun violence and expanded state and federal rules registration and licensing of guns. Scott-Childress’s resolution also calls on politicians to refuse campaign contributions from gun-rights groups and to increase funding for anti-bullying programs in schools.
The memorializing resolution would not impact current laws and regulations governing the possession and use of firearms within the City of Kingston. In 2016, in response to a proposal to open an indoor shooting range in Midtown Kingston, a divided Common Council passed an ordinance that effectively barred shooting sports in the city. Scott-Childress said that he would not propose further restrictions in the city code.
“My concern is that [local gun restrictions] would be wading into something very controversial,” said Scott-Childress. “Something that could potentially invite lawsuits.”
A spokeswoman for Mayor Steve Noble said that he would review the resolution and possibly recommend changes once it has passed out of the Laws and Rules Committee.