The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution got a ringing endorsement Tuesday from three of the top-ranking elected officials who represent Genesee County.
Rep. Kathy Hochul, State Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Steven Hawley all appeared at SCOPE's monthly meeting to talk about what they're doing to help prevent extremists on the left from stripping gun owners of their right to own firearms.
Ranzenhofer started off the evening by discussing how important a Republican majority is in the State Senate to protecting gun rights.
"There are people out there who don’t like you and want to take away your rights," Ranzenhofer said.
When Ranzenhofer was first in office, and the GOP didn't have a majority in the Senate, he said anti-gun Democrats regularly tried to push new laws to restrict gun and ammo sales. Since the GOP regained control of the upper chamber, "we’ve not had to be constantly on guard for new legislation coming up," Ranzenhofer said.
Now, Ranzenhofer said, the biggest worry at the state level for gun-rights advocates is a popular governor who wants to push through legislation to restrict the rights of gun owners.
Hochul said she comes from a family of gun-rights advocates. She has two brothers in Maryland, she said, who are expert marksmen. While Hochul said she isn't big into hunting or target shooting herself, she has taken safety courses and knows how to handle a firearm.
"When a bill comes up that affects your 2nd Amendment rights, I’m on your side," Hochul said.
While clerk in Erie County, Hochul said she streamlined the process for a gun permits from a year or longer to four months, and three of those months involve the State of New York doing background checks.
"Some of you may say I have a 'D' after my name and I can't vote for you," Hochul said. "Well, fine, but I still represent you. I am independent and I look at each and every issue as what's best for the people of Western New York. Sometimes the Democrats are right and sometimes they're really wrong. Some times the Republicans are right and some times they are really wrong."
According to Hochul, when the gun rights groups come out with their congressional rankings soon, she will receive a very high grade for her voting record for her first year in office.
"I'm very proud of my ranking," Hochul said.
Hochul also noted that she opposed the "Fast and Furious" operation, which provided guns to drug gangs in Mexico, and believes Attorney General Eric Holder should respect the powers of Congress under the Constitution and turn over all "Fast and Furious" documents to the House of Representatives, a demand from Congress the Obama Administration is fighting.
Hochul faces the most serious reelection challenge in November of the three officials who spoke Tuesday and SCOPE Chairman Jack Taylor said he contacted the campaign for her challenger, Chris Collins, to invite Collins to the meeting, but didn't get a response.
Hawley talked a good deal about his work on veterans' issues, particularly his annual Patriot Tour of Washington, D.C., and noted that while his colleague in the Senate, Ranzenhofer, may need to deal with only two anti-gun zealots in that chamber, the state Assembly is filled with 40 or 50 people eager to water down the 2nd Amendment.
Hawley said those representatives deal with a very different constituency than Assembly members in Upstate and Western New York, where people often live on a bit of land, own their own homes, like to hunt and fish and target shoot.
In noting the differences, Hawley segued into a discussion of a bill he has repeatedly sponsored -- allowing a referendum vote on whether New York should be split into two states.
Taylor spoke between each guest and hammered home the same point: Gun rights advocates need to educate the public on the difference between law-abiding citizens who own guns and criminals who not only use guns but other implements to commit their crimes.
"In all my years in retail, I've never seen a gun jump off the shelf and shoot somebody," Taylor said.
Some of the blame for the misrepresentation of guns falls on the media, Taylor noted, reminding SCOPE members that you never see a headline that says "Chevy and Budweiser kills family of four," but you do see headlines like "Glock used in murder spree."
The former county coroner said the most common way that young people die a violent death in Genesee County is from drunken driving, while there is only about one homicide every seven years locally (worth noting: the last homicide locally was Scott Doll beating to death his victim, no gun involved).
"We are all against crime, whatever the implement," Taylor said. "We need to separate the crime from the implement. There’s not a gun law out there that ever saved a life or prevented a criminal from committing a crime."