ALBANY – Go to State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti’s campaign Facebook page and you’ll find the usual: photos of the Buffalo Republican, a link to donate money and various tidbits of information.
And then there are these comments from his Facebook “friends”:
“A disgrace to all Republicans in your district.”
“You should be convicted of treason.”
“Have fun ever trying to get re-elected.”
“You should step down in shame.”
“You sold out.”
And those are the ones that can be printed in this newspaper.
So goes the reaction since Grisanti last Monday night voted for sweeping gun-control legislation that does everything from further restricting assault weapons to creating a state tracking system for every bullet bought in New York.
Grisanti was the only upstate Republican to vote for the bill.
If Grisanti’s 2011 vote for same-sex marriage was controversial – he thought within hours of that vote that he had just cost himself his political career – the gun-control vote is generating an overwhelmingly negative reaction for Grisanti, judging by his campaign page and calls and emails to his office.
As for the comments on his Facebook page, “I’ve read some of them,” Grisanti said.
But many of them, he said, are driven by not understanding the “what the bill could have been and where it is now.”
GOP negotiators had made the package better, and the benefits of the final legislation outweigh the “minimal – what some people call – infringements,” Grisanti said on the night of the vote.
He still feels that way, insisting that the original ideas that Democrats pushed would have made it easier for authorities to confiscate guns.
He said the Senate GOP pushed back for stronger penalties for crimes committed with guns and for additional steps to try to get treatment for mentally ill people and to keep guns out of their hands. The Republicans, he said, also fought for funding for school for safety programs and equipment.
“None of that stuff was even remotely close to where we are now,” Grisanti said of what he believes is a better result because of Senate GOP input.
The bill was negotiated for Republicans by Senate co-leader Dean G. Skelos, who voted for the measure, along with other Long Island Republicans and a couple of GOP lawmakers from New York City.
Late last week, Grisanti said his office had received about 70 calls and 150 emails from people upset with his vote. The senator said he and his staff have responded the same way: The legislation, in their view, could have been a lot worse, and GOP negotiators improved things from early drafts by Democrats.
As for calls and emails thanking him for his vote, he put that number at between 50 and 75.
“I’ve always had a good rapport with hunters and sportsmen, and I still consider myself an advocate for the Second Amendment,” said Grisanti, who represents part of Buffalo and several suburbs in a district with a strong Democratic enrollment advantage.
If people are angry with his vote, they aren’t showing it personally, Grisanti said, adding that only a few people have come up to him upset about his vote.
“When I explain to them what was taken out of the bill and what we added into the bill … they understand, and they say OK,” he said.
Grisanti said he is confident that gun manufacturers will redesign weapons to comply with New York law. The new statute bans new ammunition magazines capable of holding more than seven rounds, down from the previous 10-round ceiling. Current owners with 10-round magazines can keep them, but it will be illegal to place more than seven rounds in them.
The senator’s 2011 vote for legislation giving gay people the right to marry cost Grisanti the Conservative Party endorsement in his election last year. A split field in the general election, though, helped Grisanti beat his two main competitors in November without Conservative backing, which is seen as important in many upstate GOP Senate districts.
Of the four Republicans who voted for the marriage-equality act, Grisanti is the only one still in the Senate.
Two others lost their seats in elections last fall, and the other retired in the face of likely defeat.
All the state lawmakers the party endorsed last year – Assembly Democrats Michael P. Kearns of Buffalo, Dennis H. Gabryszak of Cheektowaga and Robin L. Schimminger of Kenmore, and Senate Republicans Patrick M. Gallivan of Elma and Michael H. Ranzenhofer of Amherst – “voted the right way” and opposed the gun-control bill, Erie County Conservative Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo said.
“I’m disappointed that Mark Grisanti wasn’t able to get our endorsement, in a way, because maybe we could have held him,” Lorigo said. “When someone doesn’t get our endorsement, they often move more to the left.”