The Great Gun Debate

No matter where you stand on this hot-button issue, we have the numbers regarding firearms in the Valley


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To view this infographic in its original format, click here (PDF opens in new window).

The debate about the wisdom of individuals allowed to secure a gun permit and carry them in public has only intensified as mass shootings continue to occur around the nation with alarming frequency. Nineteen people, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, shot at a supermarket in Phoenix. The death of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Connecticut. Nine people killed in a South Carolina church last June. And, of course, the suicides, gang shootings, domestic violence, and accidents also kill thousands of Americans each year. In the Hudson Valley, City of Poughkeepsie Police Officer John Falcone was shot dead with his own service weapon while trying to subdue a man who had just killed his estranged wife.

Elections — and not just presidential races — fuel the flames. Some believe it’s their constitutional right to carry a firearm and point to the 31 percent decline in the nation’s overall gun deaths over the last 23 years. Others hotly disagree and think that more legal restrictions will help to stem the rash of mass shootings. These folks also want to crack down more on illegal gun dealers and tighten background checks. Many citizens fall somewhere in the middle. As President Obama said in January: “A majority of gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking feud from inflicting harm on a massive scale.”


The Timeline

1640s At Fort Orange, in current day Albany, the Dutch bring guns to trade for fur with the Mohawks and Mahicans.
1801-1809 The Sandanona Shooting Grounds in Millbrook, the oldest permitted shotgun shooting club in the country, is established. The main lodge — which is still in existence today — was built when Thomas Jefferson was president.

parrott gun

1860 Robert Parker Parrott develops the Parrott rifle. Manufactured at the West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, the gun plays a key role in the Union Army’s victory in the Civil War.
1911 The Sullivan Law goes into effect. It requires all New Yorkers to get a license for firearms that are small enough to be concealed.
2001 Newburgh Free Academy becomes the first high school in the region to install metal detectors.
Feb. 2005 Robert Bonelli, a 24-year-old from Ulster County, enters the Best Buy store in Kingston’s Hudson Valley Mall and fires an assault rifle. Two people are injured. Bonelli was sentenced to 32 years in prison.

dick cheney

Oct. 2007 Vice President Dick Cheney, who infamously shot his buddy Harry M. Whittington in 2006 while the two were quail hunting in Texas, goes bird hunting at the exclusive Clove Valley Rod and Gun Club in Lagrangeville.
Feb. 2009 Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tells Newsday that she keeps two rifles under her bed to protect her upstate New York home. Subsequent news reports indicate that the senator removed the guns “for security reasons.”
Feb. 2011 City of Poughkeepsie Police Office John Falcone is shot and killed by his own gun when he attempts to tackle Lee Welch, a 27-year-old Catskill man who, moments before, had shot and killed his wife in a parking lot near the city’s train station.
Sept. 2012 Sen. Gillibrand watches her NRA rating drop from a grade of “A” to “F.” The gun-lobbying group contends that, since joining the Senate, Gillibrand has voted against it on gun-related issues 100 percent of the time.
Jan. 2013 New York’s SAFE (Secure Ammunitions and Firearms Enforcement) Act goes into effect. Considered one of the country’s toughest gun laws, it requires background checks for all gun sales and registration of all assault-style weapons.
May 2015 Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces that more than $13 million will be used to fight gun violence in 17 counties outside of New York City.
Jun. 2015 Poughkeepsie Councilman Joe Rich, a Democrat, shouts “shut up” at local residents at a council meeting. Rich and the anti-gun control attendees sparred over a proposed measure that would require city residents to keep their firearms locked up at all times. Rich later apologized for his outburst.
Dec. 2015 Ulster County Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum sets off a nationwide firestorm when — in response to a shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that left 14 dead — he posts on Facebook that all licensed gun owners should carry their guns in public. Read the full story here.

map gun deaths per capita

Guns, By the Numbers

  • In 2013, New York had the third lowest number of gun deaths per capita. (The lowest was Hawaii, followed by Massachusetts.)
  • There have been at least 1,042 mass shootings since 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Connecticut on December 14, 2012.
  • The nation’s overall gun death rate has declined 31% since 1993.
  • There are approximately 30,000 gun deaths a year in the US — of these deaths are by suicide.
  • Between 1993 and 2000, the gun homicide rate dropped by nearly half.
  • 32 percent of Republicans believe that stricter gun control will help prevent accidental gun deaths. That number increases to 74 percent when measuring Democrats.

What the Heck is the SAFE Act?

As a direct result of the horrific shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or the SAFE Act. Described by Cuomo as the “toughest” gun control law in the country, it expands certain guidelines and adds new ones.

Among the changes: a ban on assault weapons by expanding the definition of what an assault weapon actually is; a ban on high-capacity magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition; stricter background checks and registration policies before a gun can be purchased; and safer storage laws. The Act also requires recertification for a firearm after five years.

A 2014 Siena College poll found that 63 percent of registered New York state voters supported the Act, compared to 32 percent who opposed it.


Where Do Our Readers Stand?

We ran a week-long poll on our website — and more than 400 of you weighed in on everything from whether or not you own firearms to what you think about the SAFE Act. Click here for all the results.

“We have seen a dramatic increase for the year 2016. I expect that we will have over 1,500 [pistol permit submissions] by year’s end.” — Chief Deputy Dennis Barry, Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
The reason? “It’s the atmosphere we live in, the things people see on the news. You never know where the next shooting will be.”

Pistol Permits

In many counties of the Hudson Valley, pistol permit submissions went through the roof last year:

In Rockland County: UP 42%
2014: 680
2015: 964

In Dutchess County: UP 32%
2014: 1,329
2015: 1,744

In Columbia County: UP 13%
2014: 360
2015: 406

In Orange County: DOWN 15%
2014: 1127
2015: 957

To view this infographic in its original format, click here (PDF opens in new window).

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