Friends of a troubled University at Albany student became concerned when they learned he had a semiautomatic rifle stowed at his off-campus apartment.
They called the gun buyback program operated at the Victory Christian Church in April 2010, and then turned in the Ruger Mini-14 they were able to secure the following day. Pastor Charlie Muller remembers the incident vividly, largely because he suspects those friends helped to prevent a tragedy like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week.
The student had two 30-round clips for the rifle and a stockpile of hollow-tip bullets. He had an armored vest and hit list of people — all indicators of a potential tragedy.
Police investigated the incident and the troubled student was institutionalized. He later committed suicide.
“But because of these students that were concerned, we were able to get that gun and who knows how many lives were saved,” Muller recalled Monday.
He recounted the incident as the type of approach that is needed to thwart tragic mass killings like the one in Connecticut. He said the problem facing the nation goes well beyond the simple knee-jerk reaction of legislating tougher gun laws.
“You can only do so much with gun control,” he said.
Still, Capitol Hill seems poised to address new gun control legislation in the wake of Friday’s bloody rampage. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the rash of armed violence culminating with what occurred in Newtown may soon force a review of gun policy.
“I am hopeful that [Friday’s] unspeakable events will cause the nation to re-examine its position on guns, and allow us to come to a solution that still preserves the right to bear arms for law-abiding citizens, but makes it much harder for those who would do us harm to obtain firearms,” he said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., wrote an opinion piece published Sunday in the New York Daily News addressing several areas where she’d tighten legislation. Among other initiatives, she favors a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips made for the military, a ban on military-style weapons that have no recreational sports use and the closure of a loophole that allows people broad access to weaponry at gun shows.
In addition, Gillibrand wants to crack down on illegal gun trafficking. She helped author the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act, which would impose steep penalties on anyone caught illegally dealing arms.
She also called on federal legislators to start an honest discussion about gun violence. While supporting Second Amendment rights, she said something needs to be done to prevent another tragic mass shooting from occurring.
“The truth is that supporting the Second Amendment and reducing gun violence are compatible and consistent,” she stated in the editorial. “Responsible gun owners vehemently oppose the kind of gun violence afflicting the streets of America. But when gun owners and non-gun owners leap to their opposite corners, we give up our ability to thoughtfully analyze the challenges and forge an honest debate.”
U.S. Rep Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, called on Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired more than eight years ago. Like Gillibrand, he called for a ban on high-capacity clips.
“And mental health services cannot be ignored,” he said in a statement. “There’s no denying the difficult balancing act between the Second Amendment to the Constitution and changes to gun control laws. However, as the president said yesterday, we cannot afford to do nothing. We cannot accept these tragedies as routine. Changes must be made, and I remain open and committed to the best ideas out there — to ensure all our children, and our nation, are made safer and better protected.”
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, could not be reached Monday for comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered support for tougher federal laws to crack down on the interstate transport of guns. He also said he’ll propose state gun laws to close loopholes related to assault rifles.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns has renewed efforts to force lawmakers into action over gun violence. The bipartisan coalition of more than 725 mayors — including Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy and Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings — has called on President Barack Obama and Congress to detail concrete steps to prevent future gun deaths.
“The school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, is a tragedy beyond comprehension,” the organization posted on its website. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones and the community that has been shattered by this horrific act of violence.”