Sparaco and Schoenberger persuade Rockland County Democrats to defy King Cuomo and stand up for the people’s right to bear arms
BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Hundreds of citizens who believe in the rights and tradition of gun ownership were pleasantly surprised at the results of Tuesday’s meeting of the Rockland County Legislature.
Behind the bullish efforts of Republican Legislator Frank Sparaco and the parliamentary influence of Democratic Legislator Ilan Schoenberger, two significant resolutions swung in the favor of the gun rights crowd. The first was a rejection by an 8-7 vote of a resolution in support of the federal government reinstating the 1994 assault weapons ban, as well as several other restrictions and regulations on guns, and the other was a call for the repeal of most of the NY SAFE Act gun control bill, recently forced through the New York Legislature by Governor Andrew Cuomo with the help of GOP Senator Dean Skelos.
The original resolution to support the repeal of parts of NY SAFE was put forth by Legislators Ed Day (R) and Chris Carey (R), but Sparaco added several further planks to it. Day’s planks focused mainly on law enforcement exemptions and asked for a clearer definition of the term “assault weapon,” while Sparaco’s additional planks rebuked the seven-round limit for a magazine, mandatory record-keeping for all ammunition purchases, the required renewal of pistol permits every five years, and many other parts of the bill. The bill, if it is not repealed, will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars or more per annum in paperwork to track gun owners.
The uproar over the NY SAFE Act has continued since its passage just over a month ago. A primary complaint has been that the bill was not thought out and vetted. Democratic Legislator Joseph Meyers called Cuomo’s law “arbitrary” and said it was passed to further the governor’s own perceived political interests rather than the good of the state.
Second Amendment defenders in Tuesday’s audience, many of whom were veterans or retired law enforcement, spoke passionately of their belief in the right to bear arms, and how poor a law they believe NY SAFE is. Rockland County became the 19th county to pass a resolution asking for the repeal of SAFE. A rally of forces statewide is scheduled on February 28 in Albany to continue to push for repeal and cases are moving through the court system already.
Ironically during the last major protest in Albany against NY SAFE, February 12, Cuomo came to Rockland County on short notice to promote his budget and agenda. Exactly one week later members of his own party would rebuke the hastily passed SAFE law. Ultimately the resolution to repeal most of NY SAFE passed 10-5 with two Republicans absent. Legislators Carey, Earl, Meyers, Sparaco, Wieders, Paul, Schoenberger, Soskin, Jobson, Murphy vote aye. In all, Democrats voted 6-5 in favor of SAFE Act repeal and Republicans 4-0.
Schoenberger spoke in favor of gun rights, and noted that he himself is a gun owner. Democratic Legislator Tony Earl mentioned that when he was a young boy in the south he remembers that family members purchased firearms to protect themselves from potential attacks from thieves and the Klu Klux Klan.
Democrat Phillip Soskin, a military veteran, pointed out that the federal government itself had caused gun violence with its failed Fast and Furious program. Republican Legislator Doug Jobson bashed “both parties for politically exploiting” the Newtown killing.
Not all legislators agreed. Harriet Cornell was noticeably upset throughout the evening, while Legislator Alden Wolfe and others spoke in favor of stronger regulations on weapons.
Frank Sparaco, the driving force behind the beefed up repeal resolution, stated to supporters following the victory, “It is a great day for Rockland County…We’re sending a clear message to the state representatives from Rockland who ignorantly voted for this bill, and as representatives of people from across Rockland, we demand that they now work to repeal it.”