Earlier this week I posted a story about the possibility of concealed carry reciprocity coming to New York.
What follows is my conversation with New York Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua). We discussed CCW reciprocity and gun owners’ rights. I have attempted to faithfully reproduce it from a problematically-connected phone conversation into a readable text.
Me: The New York Post quoted you in favor of leniency for Meredith Graves, who was arrested in New York City for handgun possession but has a carry permit in Tennessee. The same article said Sheldon Silver is forming a committee to explore changes to the pistol permit law to give leniency to permit holders from other states who bring handguns here. Question: Can you clarify what’s being discussed: Is it a reduction in sentence for out of state permit holders found with a handgun, or would it be a law allowing out-of-state permit holders to legally carry handguns in New York?
BK: My personal preference is that we recognize registered permit holders throughout the country in this state, in other words, if they have a permit for a certain handgun that they’re carrying as long as they match that there’d be no penalty, that they’d be recognized just as if they have a license or permit in New York State. I don’t know what the Speaker (Silver) has in mind in terms of his thought process, because quite frankly, traditionally, the Assembly Democrat Conference has been what I call an ‘anti-gun-owner’ crowd in terms of legislation, so I find it interesting that he’d be open-minded to having a committee, but I’d hope they’d explore every avenue and not just having a different sentence if you’re carrying a registered firearm and have a permit in another state.
Me: Can you tell me your observations about the ‘mood’ of the state government with regard to relaxing gun laws? Do you see support among other elected representatives to make New York gun laws more permissive?
BK: Well, certainly there are some of us in both houses of the legislature that want obviously common-sense gun laws. The problem is, every year in the Assembly they propose a litany of what I commonly refer to as “the gun package”, which is a series of laws that really restrict and penalize law-abiding gun owners, rather than focusing in on what I would call “true illegal” criminal use of firearms, and every new bill that is proposed is going to really have an impact on the law-abiding gun owner versus the criminal, which I think is crazy (laughs) or ridiculous. And now, for the last two years and we’re having my third year, our conference sponsors a sporstmans’/sportswomens’ outdoor legislative awareness day, where we bring in speakers such as Wayne LaPierre and others right into the legislative office building, and we have programs and remarks by a variety of pro-gun advocates, and we’re trying to bring more- what I’ll call- legitimate political pressure to the New York State legislature to have more reasonable and common-sense law on the books, and not just looking to put something on that looks good but does nothing to solve a crime or prevent a crime.
Me: Several weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 822, the ‘National Right-To-Carry Act”, which would make interstate reciprocity a federal mandate. Question: Do you support a federal reciprocity mandate, or do you believe reciprocity should be left to state governments to decide?
BK: My preference is that it’s done at the federal level, because every state has to abide by it, and then you don’t have to worry about the persnicketyness of an individual state legislature or governor, so if the Feds do it that’s wonderful because all 50 states are following the same law and you don’t have to check online what one state does versus another, but if the federal government is not going to do it, then I’ll continue to push in New York State to at least have a reciprocal permit law that we recognize other states that have (carry licenses).
Me: In some counties in New York, pistol permits are typically issued ‘restricted’, meaning they are only valid for activities such as hunting and target shooting and not valid for concealed carry for personal protection. Also, most upstate residents’ pistol permits are currently not valid in New York City. Question: If reciprocity became law due either to a change by the legislature or because of a federal mandate, would Upstate residents be able to count on a change in the law to make their own permits valid for defensive carry throughout the state?
BK: Oh absolutely, I would want that as well. Every county under the same rule, including the counties in New York City. As you know, Mayor Bloomberg is not real big on that idea. But I think, you know, I have a pistol permit in New York State to carry a concealed weapon, and I think it’s ridiculous that I have to go through another permit process in the state I live in, because of the rules that are set differently on a political agenda in the city of New York. Quite frankly, I think that’s inconsistent, and it’s not fair to all New Yorkers, and certainly I would advocate for the same law through the entire state regardless of where you live.
Me: Last May, a local CBS affiliate reported that New York State Police released the names and addresses of handgun licensees throughout the state. Two questions: 1) What steps have been taken by the legislature to protect the privacy of New York gun owners? and 2) Would people from out-of-state have cause to worry about their privacy if they travel here with a legal handgun assuming that reciprocity does pass?
BK: Well, to be honest with you, I was not familiar with that list being released by the state police, so that’s the first time I’ve heard of that, I must have missed that story. I don’t think we should be releasing the names. For invasion of privacy purposes, if you’re a registered firearm owner, and you have a permit, it’s a matter of public record in terms of where you have to get the permit, but I don’t think we should be showcasing who has a firearm and who doesn’t, I don’t think it’s anybody’s business, as long as you’re carrying a permit to carry or own. But I’m not aware of any legislation that has been introduced, so I’d have to do a little bit more research on this subject, because I wasn’t even aware of what was supposedly released publicly.
Me: On the subject of privacy concerns, at yesterday’s State of the State address, Governor Cuomo proposed a new law to require a person convicted of any crime to submit a DNA sample to the state database.
First, does the term “all crimes”, as the Governor put it, mean what it sounds like- that a person convicted of an offense such a misdemeanor petit larceny would have to submit a sample?
BK: Yes, I believe that’s what he meant, although he didn’t say that specifically. I’ve been in favor of expanding the DNA database, because that has been proven to solve crimes, and also allow us to open up and close old cold cases, because quite frankly there’s alot of recidivism in crime, and having traceability to people most inclined to repeat it, so a petty larceny could grow to a grand larceny could grow to something more serious, so I absolutely support expanding the DNA database.
Me: Do you think there should be a limit on which offenses are included and which are not, so for example, obviously you wouldn’t want to include traffic tickets, but do you think there’s a certain class of offenses that should not be included in the requirement to submit a DNA sample?
BK: I think you hit a great example. Traffic violations, I don’t think warrant a DNA sample. Having said that, maybe drunk driving should be, just because of the nature of the crime or the infraction. If it’s a felony, you’ll have to go through the sobriety test anyway. I guess I would say I’d be open to looking at whatever the list is, but certainly traffic violations would seem to me not necessary to do it for that as one example.
Me: Understanding that we’re talking about, currently, a list of violent offenses for which an offender has to submit DNA, to potentially all offenses where the offender would have to submit DNA. Handgun owners in New York must already supply fingerprints, photographs, spent shell casings from handguns for ballistic identification, personal references, employment information, credit history, mental health history, address history, spouse’s information, neighbors’ information, and a check of their criminal records, DMV records, and tax records, do you believe some in the state government may want to require handgun owners to also submit DNA samples as a condition of getting a pistol permit?
BK: I don’t think so, I don’t think it’s necessary. Certainly, law-abiding gun owners- as you just pointed out- there’s a whole host of information on file with legitimate, legal gun owners, so no, I don’t think there’s any point in having DNA, because you have all the information on that particular gun and shell casing anyway, so what would be the point? (laughs) That would be, pardon the expression, “overkill”.
Me: That’s true, and that’s the thing about gun owners- I’m sure you know the sentiment- alot of us who are gun owners here in New York already feel like we’re considered somewhat criminal, you know what I mean?
It’s good to know that even in New York, where many gun owners have simply given up hope of the gun laws changing, that we have state representatives who are continuing to work on our behalf.
My thanks to Assemblyman Kolb and his staff.
(Thanks to James Allen for producing the graphic.)