NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- In a press release yesterday, Mayor Bramson joined other area mayors in calling for an "end to gun violence" in response to the Newtown school shooting.
Rather than join other parents in calling for immediate steps to address the long-standing failure of the district to meet even the State's minimum requirements for school safety at his own children's school, Bramson is instead spending his time trying to score cheap political points and get his name in the newspaper by jumping on the "Assault Weapons" ban bandwagon.
Bramson would do well to consider that his own children's school does not have a current, updated Safety Plan on file with his own police department. Instead of wasting time pontificating about what Congress should be doing maybe he should be spending his time getting affairs in order right here in New Rochelle where he is the Mayor. Under the City Charter, Mayor Bramson would take control of the New Rochelle Police Department in an emergency. Imagine an active shooter invasion at the school attended by the Mayor's own children. He opens up the binder containing the school's Safety Plans and finds the plans he holds are all dated "2001".
Where are his priorities? Where are those of the rest of our so-called leadership in New Rochelle? If any of these people had any real concern about the safety of our children in New Rochelle they would demand an investigation by the Commissioner of Education or the Attorney General into the widespread failure to implement the Project SAVE law which was signed into law in 2000, three months after the Columbine school massacre.
If Noam Bramson was really interested in protecting children in our schools -- including his own -- in the wake of the Newtown school shooting, he would have been at the disastrous the New Rochelle Board of Education meeting on Tuesday. He would have learned that the district claims to be in full compliance with the Project SAVE law despite his own Police Commissioner knowing they are not. He might have wondered as have many others why school security was not even on the agenda, why the school board was combative and argumentative rather than patient and understanding as parents expressed their concerns about school safety in New Rochelle.
The Mayor has proposed criminal background checks for all purchasers of firearms of any kind but expressed no opinion the district hiring employees without performing criminal background checks or retaining employees who commit violent crimes.
The Mayor wants to prohibit the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms, limiting the size of magazines to 10 clips and making it a federal crime to smuggle or sell prohibited weapons or ammunition but has no opinion when 8th graders use a gun to threaten a 6th grader on a bus and then enter a middle school with the gun.
If this law were passed tomorrow, would it do anything to make children in New Rochelle safer? Keep in mind that New York State has its own version of an "assault weapons" ban on the books.
To take the most extreme case, had this law been in effect since 1934 when the United States banned fully-automatic weapons, would it have prevented the Newtown school shooting? In other words, before almost every "assault weapon" existing today was manufactured.
Adam Lanza, 20, did not own any guns and under Connecticut law was not permitted to carry or use a handgun of any kind due to his age.
Nancy Lanza, 52, owned 7 weapons: .223-caliber Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, 10mm Glock 20 SF handgun, 9mm SIG Sauer handgun, shotgun, 45 Henry repeating rifle, .30 Enfield rifle, .22 Marlin rifle.
Neither Nancy Lanza nor Adam Lanza had a criminal record and all of the weapons owned by Nancy Lanza were purchased legally. The proposed criminal background check for all gun purchasers would not have prevented Nancy Lanza's guns being in her home that day and state laws did not prevent Adam Lanza from carrying two handguns into the school.
What remains is a question of whether an "assault-weapon" ban would have prevented the shootings in Newtown.
Adam Lanza's first murder was committed by firing four .22 caliber rounds into his mother's face, using the .22 Marlin rifle she owned. The Mayor's proposed ban would not have prevented Lanza's first murder.
Lanza left the house where he lived and to the Sandy Hook Elementary School, taking with him the .223-caliber Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, 10mm Glock 20 SF handgun, 9mm SIG Sauer handgun, and the shotgun. He left behind the 45 Henry repeating rifle, .30 Enfield rifle, .22 Marlin rifle. At the school he left the shotgun in the car.
While a full report will later be issued, initial reports from the Connecticut State Police are that Lanza used the .223-caliber Bushmaster XM-15 rifle on his victims and used one of the handguns on himself as first responders entered the building. Initial reports are that Lanza fired over 100 rounds and had over 100 more rounds in magazines he brought with him.
If the Bushmaster XM-15 had been banned as an "assault weapon" and the magazines Lanza carried been limited to 10 clips, would that have prevented Lanza from shooting people at the school?
Given his access to the 6 other weapons and that his first murder was with the .22 rifle, the answer is "no".
To those not familiar with guns, it sounds dramatic to say that Lanza had "hundreds of rounds" of ammunition. The reality is more mundane. A fairly typical purchase of ammunition at Wal Mart would be a box of .22 caliber bullets; a box with 50 rounds costs about $7.00 and a 10-pack of 500 rounds for about $30. It would be almost standard for a gun owner to have hundreds of rounds of ammunition for their gun, most of which would be used for target practice and most of the rest for hunting. Lanza could have armed himself with a thousand rounds for the price of an XBOX video game.
Would an "assault weapon" ban have limited the lethality of the attack?
That would depend on a variety of factors including Lanza's skill with the weapons, his ability to re-load, the functioning of the different weapons and many other factors. The Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle used by James Holmes to kill 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, CO jammed after he had fired 30 rounds.
There is simply no way to know. Had he not had the XM-15, which the Mayor now proposes to ban based on its appearance, he could have just as easily used the shotgun to blast his way into the school and use the 2 handguns to kill his victims at the school.
A list of multiple-homicide shootings in the United States suggests that a deranged gunman can kill many people with all sorts of guns that would not be considered "assault weapons" including handguns, .22 rifles and bolt-action rifles.
The bottom line is that all guns are dangerous. Banning certain guns because their cosmetic features make them "look scary" will not make the remaining "un-scary" guns less dangerous. The simple fact is that any weapon in the hands of a mentally-ill person is scary -- the same for a car, a knife or pretty much anything else that can be used as a weapon. And recall that that the 9/11 hijackers used knives and box-cutters to hijack four planes and kill almost 3,000 people.
The Washington Post has a good article on the "Assault Weapons Ban" otherwise known as TITLE XI--FIREARMS Subtitle A--Assault Weapons of H.R. 3355 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
All of that said, the question remains: why is the Mayor spending his time seeking to lobby the federal government where he has absolutely no role or even influence and ignoring New Rochelle where he resides, where his kids attend school, where he works and where he serves as the most-senior, highly-paid elected official in the City?
What would happen if the Mayor of New Rochelle issued a press-release calling on the school district to come clean on their decade-long failure to comply in word and spirit with every aspect of the Project SAVE law, demand that they provide an immediate accounting of deficiencies, explain how they intend to remedy those deficiencies and when and the removal of any persons found to have been derelict in their duty with regard to Project SAVE compliance.
Apparently the Mayor of New Rochelle believes his elected office is better used to lecture politicians in Washington how to change to Federal law to his liking rather than roll up his sleeves here at home to work on pushing our school district to comply with State law that is already on the books.
If the Mayor were serious about protecting the children of New Rochelle he might consider the law was allowed to expire because it did not work -- the Center for Disease Control found no decrease in gun violence as the result of the "assault weapons" ban. The United States Department of Justice National Institute of Justice found that the effects on gun violence from restoring the ban would be so small as to be unmeasurable because "assault weapons" are so rarely used in gun crimes. The Violence Policy Center which supported the Federal "assault weapons" ban concluded "the gun industry easily found ways around the law and most of these weapons are now sold in post-ban models virtually identical to the guns Congress sought to ban in 1994."
If he were to take a look he might find that school districts throughout the County the Mayor proposes to run -- Mamaroneck, Scarsdale, Port Chester, and others -- have already held school board meetings devoted entirely to school safety. He might then wonder why the New Rochelle school board just had a 3 1/2 hour meeting and school safety was not even on the agenda.
The New Rochelle Board of Education has been overtly hostile to the New Rochelle Police Department -- ask any cop, any senior officer, ask the Police Commissioner. School security has actively thwarted criminal investigations and refused to provide evidence in criminal cases to investigators from the NRPD and the District Attorney's office. Despite a law requiring them to do so, the Board of Education does not have a current, updated district-wide plan on file with the police department nor is one available on the district web site. They do not have a current, updated plan for Albert Leonard, Isaac Young, Ward, Trinity, Jefferson, Columbus, Davis, Barnard, Webster or the Alternative High School. All of the plans for these schools, and the district-wide plan, date back to 2001. They are supposed to be updated every year. The high school plan is dated 2006.
Like every municipal official, the Police Commissioner ultimately serves at the pleasure of the City Council which the Mayor runs with an iron fist. Yet someone how cannot manage it so the police department demands that the district provide then with the required safety plans updated annually.
At the board meeting on Tuesday, Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak stated that the board approved a district-wide safety plan in a resolution in 2009. I have been attending almost every board meeting since 2008. I have no recollection of any of the required public input periods or public hearings in all that time. Regardless, the law requires that the district-wide safety teams and building-level safety teams meet annually to review the plans, these teams are required to have specific types of people on them, the district must give public notice when they make changes and allow the public to provide input and hold a public hearing. That is one district and 11 schools or 12 plans.
Superintendent Organisciak's "defense" for his willful neglect of the Project SAVE law during his six years in charge is that once, three years ago, one of the 12 required plans was updated. Mayor Bramson is silent.
If Mayor Bramson were really concerned he would join other parents in filing a "310" complaint with the New York State Education Department to seek the removal for those responsible and demand an end to the school district practice of attempting to coverup criminal activity in the schools by students and adults and criminal activity by their employees in and out of the schools. Or perhaps explain to the public why he supports a school system that employs violent criminals and gives them unfettered access to our school buildings, teachers and children. Maybe he can explain that to the parents of the young man left in the street with a fractured skull by district employee Willie Clark.
It is time to end the charade that there need be some "Chinese Wall" between our City government and Board of Education and get down to cases on how to make our schools safe while ridding ourselves of the incompetent board members, administration and staff who have, for many years, turned a blind-eye to violence in our schools and the demonstrable failures to provide for the safety and security of our children.
Or am I alone on this?