Two federal lawmakers who represent Western New Yorkers are praising the Florida high school students who have spoken up and demanded change following a mass shooting Feb. 14 in Parkland. Both were asked about their latest thoughts about the gun violence debate, including whether new legislation banning more powerful firearms is in order.
Congressman Tom Reed, a Southern Tier Republican, renewed his position as a defender of Second Amendment rights during his weekly conference call. He also expressed his support and confirmed his co-sponsorship of the Second Amendment Guarantee Act, introduced last year by fellow Congressman and Clarence Republican Chris Collins as a means to supplant many of the measures included in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's state-level SAFE Act.
But he welcomed the protests by students and "those efforts to raise pressure on Congress."
"Inaction in Congress is not an appropriate response. But when it comes to our Second Amendment, I will stand firm on the constitutional freedom enshrined in our Second Amendment and defend that right," Reed said "But does that mean we can’t have a conversation about making sure the background check system is working properly, that we can’t have a conversation about certain individuals such as convicted criminals, making sure they do not have access to a weapon because they committed a crime with a weapon and lost that right?"
Reed says there is not enough support on Capitol Hill to revisit the assault weapons ban of the 1990s. Nor does he believe that, by itself, would work.
"What I’m looking at is looking at the perpetrator," Reed said. "What I'm looking at is looking at the individual and doing what is necessary to make sure we are protected as a society, they are getting the treatment they need in order to deal with their mental disease, and we also remove from society people like those criminal elements that are root cause of a tremendous amount of gun violence, particularly in our inner cities," said Reed.
Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader and a New York Democrat, spoke of the students during a Buffalo-area appearance to discuss proposed traffic safety legislation, standing with surviving relatives of a recent auto crash victim.
"I want to salute these young people who, today in Florida, are trying to get action," said Schumer Wednesday. "Like the family here, they are lighting a candle after their tragedy. We have to find a way to prevent those who have real mental illness from getting guns. We can do a lot better and should."
He was then asked about his stance on AR-15s, the model used by Florida shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz.
"I'm going to talk about mental illness right now," he replied. "That's the first step."
He was also asked about what many say were the warning signs from Cruz that should have been spotted sooner.
"We're not doing enough to stop those with real mental illness from getting guns."
Reed, meanwhile, was asked about last year's decision by President Donald Trump to sign legislation rescinding, before it could be enacted, an Obama-era bill that supporters say would have made it more difficult for people living with mental illness to purchase guns.
"There were a lot of people in that order who have physical disabilities, rather than mental. In my opinion it was an overbroad order by President Obama that swept up a lot of law abiding disabled folks who were not exhibiting those mental health triggers," Reed replied. "We have supported that on the floor of the House legislatively, to deal with that issue."