On Tuesday, New York’s 62 elected district attorneys released a list of gun control measures they say should be adopted by their state and the federal government. On the list are a number of measures seen in Washington as partisan divides in the gun violence debate after the Newtown, Conn. shooting, including closing the so-called “gun show loophole” and banning high-capacity magazines.
New York, home of rigorous gun regulations and the man leading the charge against the National Rifle Association, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, is perhaps not the toughest place to sell new firearms restrictions. But as Washington barrels toward a pitched legislative fight over what to do about gun violence, any group of elected Republicans and Democrats coming together to talk gun control and coming up with a consensus result is worth taking a look at.
Led by Cyrus Vance Jr. (D), the prosecutor for Manhattan, the DAs came up with a list of federal policy recommendations (as well as a similar list of new state regulations) that a reader might be surprised to learn was written with the help of Republican elected officials. Vance is the president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York.
Among the recommendations: close the gun show loophole, ban high-capacity magazines and scuttle proposed legislation in Congress that would force states to treat the concealed carry permits of other states as legally valid in their jurisdiction. Read the whole letter on the DAASNY website here.
All the ideas listed in the letter are part of the federal conversation about guns in the wake of Newtown, which for the most part has not been led by Republicans. But the signatures on Vance’s list come mostly from GOP elected officials (about 2/3 of the elected DAs in New York are Republicans, according to Vance’s office.)
Vance said he was able to get a bipartisan consensus behind the recommendations the because the DAs’ role in law enforcement trumped their political ties.
“District Attorneys are, first and foremost, members of the law enforcement community. On policy matters, we tend not see ourselves as Democrats or Republicans,” he told TPM. “We may have differences of opinion, but we all share common ground around our most important responsibility — preventing violence and keeping our communities safe.”
One of his Republican colleagues, past DAASNY president and Franklin County DA Derek Champagne, echoed the sentiment but said that it’s possible for all elected officials to look beyond politics when it comes to legislative solutions post-Newtown.
“This country is founded upon compromise,” he said. “I would be very disheartened to think that there is nothing in any of these proposals that we couldn’t find some sort of compromise on. Especially when you talk to law enforcement, because you know law enforcement I think people can generally agree is typically Republican conservative and if we have our own law enforcement and many of them are begging or pleading for some sort of sanity on some of these issues.”
Champagne is a gun owner himself, and he said his constituents include many avid firearms enthusiasts common to New York’s more rural regions. He said that most gun owners in New York have grown up with gun restrictions that are tougher than those found in many other parts of the nation, and “don’t feel like we’re that impeded.” That makes it easier for Republicans like him to buck the National Rifle Association and sign the DAASNY letter.
He acknowledged it’s not such an easy decision for other elected Republicans, but suggested that greater explanation of what new gun laws will do could make a big impact in a national debate.
“i don’t know that I have a great answer for that,” he said when asked if other Republicans can buck the NRA like he has. “We all look at our own conscience and what we find acceptable and palatable. And because I’ve grown up with a different level of scrutiny to begin with, what I find palatable is truly on a different level.”
“Maybe that’s right or maybe that’s wrong, but at the end of the day I know that I can still hunt, I can still fish, I can still have my handguns,” he said. “And under any of these proposals my lawful right to carry firearms in New York state would not be impeded in any way.”
Correction: This story has been updated to show that Vance is the prosecutor for Manhattan, and not all of New York City.