Passion and politics frequently cloud reasonable dialogue about the best way to balance insuring that the Constitutional “right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” with the legislative intent behind laws aimed at curbing mass carnage with assault weapons.
Decades-long friends, Harold W. “Budd” Schroeder and G. Steven Pigeon, stand on opposite sides of the state’s recently passed Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, but managed a more than an hour-long civil debate on the issue of gun control Thursday evening in Lackawanna.
Schroeder is chairman of the statewide Shooters’ Committee on Political Education. Pigeon is a political consultant who formerly served as chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party and is supporter of the new state gun laws. The two squared off during the 2013 Judge and Police Conference’s installation dinner.
In the end, both men agreed there was little chance they would convince the other to change their position.
“As a free American citizen, I don’t want some politician telling me how to run my life if I’m not causing a problem to society, myself or anyone else,” Schroeder said of what he called the “grand-standing” gun control measures being championed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and President Barack H. Obama.
“It’s a slogan, not a solution,” Schroeder said. “The law, as it’s written, is not going to work. It’s like spitting on the Constitution of the United States.”
Pigeon, who frequently referred to the types of weapons being regulated under the new state law and proposed federal law as “killing machines,” disagreed, arguing the Constitution, as a “living, breathing document,” was “not meant to be looked at as a Bible verse.”
“It was a different time,” Pigeon said of the intent of the founding fathers when drafting the Second Amendment. It was a time when automatic assault weapons with large capacity magazines, and movie theaters, didn’t exist. “There weren’t people going into the one-room schoolhouse and shooting it up.”
Pigeon said while he “believes in the right to bear arms,” it doesn’t mean “there aren’t any limitations on that right.”
Placing unconstitutional restrictions on that right, however, is what Cuomo has accomplished in New York, countered Schroeder, and what Obama is aiming for nationwide.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me that a law has to be passed against the 99¾ percent of people because they can’t control the one-quarter of one percent who don’t follow the laws,” said Schroeder.
He said the latest moves were analogous to Hitler’s first steps at disarming the populous.
“Registration leads to confiscation. People said, ‘that can’t happen,’ but it has already happened in California and New York City,” Schroeder said.
“Not one person can amass the type of power Stalin and Hitler could amass because of the checks and balances built into our system,” Pigeon said. “The system itself is designed to protect against tyranny.”
Pigeon acknowledged law-abiding gun owners like Schroeder are affected by the actions of a few. But to allow unfettered access to semiautomatic assault weapons, he said, enables them to be used with deadly consequences, such as at the Newtown, Conn. elementary school.