Skip to comments.White Plains [NY] official wants gun department closed
Posted on 11/18/2002 7:38:31 AM PST by LurkedLongEnough
A White Plains councilman has joined the national debate over gun control after seeing a movie where two of the students injured in the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School succeed in persuading a retail giant to stop selling the type of bullets used in the killing.
The scene is captured in "Bowling for Columbine," Michael Moore's satiric documentary about the U.S. culture of violence. In the movie, the students one paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, the other with a bullet still lodged inside him travel with Moore from Littleton, Colo., to the Troy, Mich., headquarters of Kmart Corp., where company executives agree to halt the sale of handgun ammunition.
The film, said Councilman William King, 46, inspired him to urge the Sports Authority store in White Plains to voluntarily shut its gun department and replace it with nonlethal merchandise.
King's crusade began late last month when, within hours of seeing Moore's movie, he walked into the Sports Authority in search of a fishing pole for his 9-year-old daughter, Amanda, and noticed well-stocked shelves of rifles, shotguns, pellet guns and ammunition.
"I am just fed up with the nonstop gun violence all over the nation and concerned about my daughter growing up in this violent society," King said recently, standing near the gun display in the Sports Authority.
"A large gun and ammo department seems so out of place in White Plains," King said. "They should sell these things closer to where people go to hunt."
King's campaign is the latest in sporadic attempts locally and around the country to pressure chain stores to ban gun sales. But it lands him squarely in the midst of a growing debate about the ease of purchasing firearms and ammunition in the United States, particularly in light of concerns involving terrorists' access to these weapons.
But even before the attacks by al-Qaida or the Washington area snipers, the issue of gun ownership stirred passionate feelings among hunters, hobbyists, gun- control advocates and ordinary residents.
As part of his local gun-control initiative, King has sent a flurry of e-mails to board members of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Sports Authority asking them to do away with the firearms department in White Plains. He also telephoned directors who live and work in the tri-state area. None of these efforts yielded a response from the company, King said.
The Sports Authority, which identifies itself on its Web site as "the largest and only nationally full-line sporting goods retailer in the United States," did answer a reporter's inquiry by saying that its sale of hunting equipment is legal and is based on customer demand.
Frank Bubb, general counsel for the Sports Authority, said by telephone from Florida that the company has no plans to change its policy.
"The Sports Authority is committed to selling a wide variety of sporting goods desired by our customers," Bubb said.
Undeterred, King has tried to muster support for a White Plains Common Council resolution calling on the Sports Authority, the only chain store in White Plains that sells firearms, to shut its guns department. King has expanded his quest with e-mails urging county, state and federal legislators to enact laws in keeping with the national Homeland Security Act that would limit the sale and distribution of guns and ammunition to stores owned and operated by the federal government.
So far, King's efforts have received only scattered support.
White Plains Mayor Joseph Delfino and former Common Council President Rita Malmud said the sale of firearms is regulated by the state and is not a matter for city action.
But Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner said he, too, has been energized by Moore's movie "to take proactive measures" in favor of gun control. "I would be interested in doing similar actions in Greenburgh if we find businesses that are also selling them," Feiner said.
Westchester County Legislator Thomas Abinanti, D-Greenburgh, tried unsuccessfully several years ago to get legislation enacted that would have required licensing of all guns in Westchester County.
"King is 100 percent correct concerning the sale of these weapons in downtown White Plains," Abinanti said. "There is not enough regulation during the initial sale and no regulation on secondary sales."
Except in New York City, no license or permit is required to buy rifles, shotguns or ammunition in the state. A mandatory background check on the buyer is generally completed by a store employee within minutes, Abinanti said. Many firearms are later resold privately and no background check takes place, he added.
Of the Sports Authority's 200 stores, 144 sell hunting equipment, Bubb said. "We comply with all of the laws concerning the sale of hunting equipment. It's a store-by-store decision based on market demand. White Plains is in the majority of our stores."
Several years ago, local gun-control advocates tried unsuccessfully to persuade Kmart to stop selling firearms and ammunition at its stores in Yorktown Heights and Mahopac.
Following the Columbine students' appeal, Kmart phased out the sale of handgun ammunition in all of its U.S. stores except in Alaska. But the company continues to carry a "limited selection of sporting firearms and related products," Kmart spokeswoman Laura Mahle said.
Initiatives like King's are important, said Andy Pelosi, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Education Fund, because they draw attention to the fact that by displaying firearms and ammunition alongside such merchandise as hiking gear and running shoes, they are made to seem like benign household items.
"The myth is that these guns are used to dink cans, but they are really designed to kill people," Pelosi said.
Statements like these infuriate hunters, target shooters and members of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, who say they are under siege nationwide because of actions like King's.
"We are all against crime with guns, but they want to outlaw firearms," said Stewart Hanson, treasurer of the Putnam County Fish and Game Association in Carmel. "It would not stop crime. Only the outlaws would have guns."
At the Westchester County-owned Sportsman Center target shooting range at Blue Mountain Reservation in Cortlandt, Mykola Lawrynenko of Brewster and his 12-year-old son, Andrian, were practicing for hunting season one day last week.
"Hunting is a wonderful pastime," said Lawrynenko, who hunted with his own father as a boy. "You have more time to observe nature as a hunter than while hiking because you spend a lot of time sitting still listening and watching."
Many regulars at the Sportsman Center say they never hunt and only shoot at paper or clay targets.
Paul Brown, 53, a teacher from the Bronx who works as a part-time safety ranger at the Sportsman Center, said sports shooting, which is included in the Olympics, is stigmatized by the media. "They portray gun owners as evil, as crooks and drug dealers," he said.
Bradford Schmidt, a technology consultant who serves as director of public relations for the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, called King's Sports Authority proposal "yet another attempt by an elected official at a feel-good measure." Of primary importance in the gun debate for Schmidt, who lives in New City, is the "right of self-defense."
But several parents who were shopping with children at the Sports Authority in White Plains last week agreed with King that a sporting goods chain is not the appropriate venue for firearms and ammunition.
"The whole philosophy of this country is wrong on gun control," said Elisa Neira of Scarsdale, who was shopping with her two teenage sons. "The violence is out of control."
Christian Lewerenz, a father of two from Armonk, who was accompanied by his 3-year old, said, "The persistent idea that citizens have the right to bear arms is an outdated concept. I don't believe guns should be so easily accessible and marketed so widely in this culture."
King, who often finds himself voting alone on controversial issues, although he is a member of the council's 6-1 Democratic majority, said he is not afraid to go it alone on gun control.
"My heroes Abe Lincoln, John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and John Lennon were all shot to death by guns," King said. "Imagine how different the world would be if they had lived."
Would it make him feel any better if they'd been pushed out of windows?
Oh YEAH, now there's a capital idea, let's just have the BATF run the gun stores. Any doubt as to the political party attached to this moron?
Let's keep the Pelosis in the country talking and soon we'll have everyone outside of the biggest urban areas voting solidly Republican.
How did NYC get away with it then?
o/` Has anybody seen / Councilman William King / Can you tell me when he'll be goooooooone... / He's a big fascist, yeah, it seems the fools, they stay strong / I just wish that he was finally gone! o/`
It would seem to me that it's the store's call on this. If the products didn't sell, then they wouldn't stock them. No retailer needs people like this telling them how to run their business.
I wonder how he is going to feel when his daughter gets raped by a brazen thug who knows his victims are defenseless physically and legally. Self-defense is already illegal in Britain, and violent crime is skyrocketing.
Some people need killin'.