Sunday, June 3, 2018

Faso on Guns, School Safety, and Mental Health

Not long after I published a post announcing the panel discussion on gun laws, school safety, and mental health to take place on Friday, June 1, I got an email from a reader predicting that John Faso would be a no-show. That wasn't the case. Faso was there. Absent from the publicized lineup of panelists was Malcolm Nance, and added was Hudson High School senior Siddique Ahmed. The discussion was moderated by Glenn Geher, a professor of psychology at SUNY New Paltz. Dan Udell and Randall Martin were both there videotaping, and soon those interested will be able to watch the entire two hours, so this account will only touch upon some highlights.

Before the panelists were asked to respond to questions, each was asked to speak for four minutes. Faso used his time to mention he was a co-sponsor of House Bill 38, the "Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act"; point out that bump stocks were effectively outlawed after the Las Vegas shooting and automatic weapons had been illegal since the 1930s; complain about loopholes in background checks; assert the need to "pay most attention to the boys who commit crimes because of bullying and social estrangement"; declare his support for "money to assist schools to harden their facilities" and for "red flag laws" that would allow judges to remove guns from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

When they got to the questions, it seemed the majority were meant for Faso. Responding to a question about the Second Amendment and its reference to a "well-regulated militia," Faso said he did not think the Second Amendment was outmoded and made reference to the majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, in the 2008 Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller. Faso concluded, "We can accommodate needs for safety without limiting the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment." When asked about contributions he has received from the NRA (a reported $5,950 in 2016, $2,000 in 2017, and so far $3,000 in 2018), Faso called the question a red herring and maintained that his support for issues was not dependent on campaign contributions. When asked if he would stop accepting money from the NRA, the answer was "No."

When a student from Chatham High School reminded Faso that he had been quoted in the newspaper as saying their walkout in protest of school gun violence had been "a loss of valuable academic time" and asked how cowering in a closet during "active shooter drill" was not a loss of academic time, Faso told her she had taken his quote out of context. He didn't respond directly to the question but instead said he appreciated her activism and energy and would be happy to speak with her. When another student from a different school noted there had already been twenty school shootings in 2018 and asked what was being done about it, Faso, who had earlier characterized the polarization of the country as, "The left watches MSNBC and CNN, the right watches FOX," told the student that twenty was "a CNN number." He then went on to talk about the mental health issues of adolescent males.

When the question was raised of how other countries manage to avoid this kind of violence, Faso provided the information that the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) would no longer be barred, as apparently it has in the past, from studying the sources and causes of violence. He then returned to the theme of male adolescents and the sources of alienation of dissatisfaction. Barrett asserted that gun violence was not limited to mass shootings, citing suicides and kids getting shot on their way to school. Then, Geher, the moderator and a professor of psychology weighed in, saying he had just done a paper on the topic. He answered the question by explaining that, when mass shootings had occurred in Scotland and Australia, stringent gun control laws were enacted "within months," and there was "zero repetition."

The last person to ask a question of the panel was Dave Clegg, one of the seven Democrats vying to be the candidate who challenges Faso in November. His question was about House Rule 38, which he said was "one of the top priorities of the NRA" and would "drop the standards to the lowest common denominator." He went on to say that people with concealed carry permits from states with no background checks would be able to "conceal-carry into New York State." Clegg asked the two law enforcement officers on the panel--Chief Moore and Sheriff Bartlett--to comment on the possibility. Moore said he was "very dubious about how we can deal with this"; Bartlett concurred. Faso noted that Vermont had some of the most lax gun control laws in the country, but no one felt "imperiled by hordes of Vermonters coming into New York State--except maybe Bernie Sanders." Yesterday, Clegg posted the video of his exchange with Faso on his campaign website

Dan Udell's video of the entire two-hour discussion is now available on YouTube and can be viewed by clicking here

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