06/13/13 6:00am
06/13/2013 6:00 AM
ABC NEWS COURTESY PHOTO | A sign welcoming visitors to Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of Friday's mass school shooting that left 26 people dead, including the suspected shooter.

ABC NEWS COURTESY PHOTO | A sign welcoming visitors to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

To the editor:

It’s been six months since 20 first-graders and six teachers were shot to death in Newtown, Conn. While there’s nothing we can do to guarantee a tragedy like this will not happen again, Congress decided to do nothing. In a few moments 26 died and our Congress decides to do nothing?

According to a tally of gun deaths from Slate, the number of people killed since the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary is now 4,499. The number of U.S. armed forces killed during the Iraq war was 4,409, according to the Defense Department.

Those who support the political idea that anyone and everyone should have unlimited access to as much firepower as they want have had their way. There’s something that can be done and the great majority of us know it. Let’s pass laws that will save the lives of schoolkids and countless others.

In another part of the country, it’s been 24 days since 10 children died in their school in Moore, Okla., from a tornado. After the horror, Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma was asked, “Shouldn’t schools have storm shelters?” The governor refused to say it was time to get these school shelters built. The most she would say was, “We will have a discussion.”

Gov. Fallin is serving the political idea that government requirements to prevent the deaths of schoolchildren are wrong. Everyone knows that school storm shelters save lives and it’s the job of government to do it.

Let’s pass the laws that will save our kids.

Mort Cogen, Cutchogue

To read more letters to the editor, pick up a copy of this week’s Suffolk Times or click on the E-Paper.

04/13/13 7:00am
04/13/2013 7:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Joe and Roe Czaluda's memorial to the Sandy Hook victims on their front lawn on Sunrise Avenue in Riverhead.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Joe and Roe Czaluda’s memorial they created in December to the Sandy Hook victims on their front lawn on Sunrise Avenue in Riverhead.

Yes, it’s true: I’m a crybaby. I cry at movies (“Shane,” “Cast Away,” etc.), I cried for two weeks straight as an 11-year-old at summer camp and I cried again Sunday night as we were watching “60 Minutes.”

But I wasn’t the only one crying Sunday night. Many of those being interviewed by CBS News correspondent Scott Pelley were in tears, too. And for good reason.

They were the parents and loved ones of the students and teachers who were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.

You remember Sandy Hook, don’t you? That’s no wisecrack; it’s a legitimate question as the days, weeks and months begin to pile up in the wake of yet another mass shooting for which our nation has become so well known.

And, as one of the Newtown parents so eloquently stated Sunday night, it will happen again, because it always happens again, particularly if the National Rifle Association has anything to say about it.

At this point in the discussion, I would like to yield the floor to my fellow columnist, Carl Hiaasen of the Miami (Fla.) Herald, who recently took to task the NRA in general, and its executive director, Wayne LaPierre, in particular, as follows:

“LaPierre insists that background checks will lead to a ‘national gun registry,’ which will then lead to mass confiscation of firearms by the government.

“Oh sure. The same government that can’t afford to deliver mail on Saturdays is poised to send armed agents to every single house in the country to search for weapons.

“The notion is ridiculous, and Wayne’s well aware of it. The NRA isn’t aiming for the mainstream support. The fringe is what they’re after — the spooked-out guys who were lining up to buy assault rifles after the mass shooting in Newtown.”

I know from reader comments on my previous columns in favor of more stringent gun control measures that I stand accused of belaboring the subject. And to that charge I plead guilty, and furthermore vow to keep writing about guns until we as a nation wake up to these inescapable truths:

• No one should be allowed to purchase a gun without undergoing a background check.

• No one but military or law enforcement personnel should be allowed to have an assault rifle.

• No one but military or law enforcement personnel should be allowed to have an ammunition clip that holds more than 10 rounds.

Period.

Word this week out of Washington is that an increasing number of our esteemed members of Congress are beginning to lose whatever resolve they may have had for meaningful gun control reform immediately following the Newtown tragedy. Apparently the NRA and Americans’ collective short memories are conspiring to prolong, once again, our national shame.

And to that reality I can think of no more powerful rejoinder than these exact words of Newtown parent David Wheeler on “60 Minutes” Sunday night:

“I would like every parent in this country — that’s 150 million people. I would like them to look in the mirror. And that’s not a figure of speech, Scott. I mean, literally, find a mirror in your house and look in it and look in your eyes and say, ‘This will never happen to me. This will never happen in my school. This will never happen in my community.’ And see if you actually believe that. And if there is a shadow, the slightest shadow of doubt about what you’ve said, think about what you can do to change that in your house, in your community, in your school, in your country, because we have an obligation to our children to do this for them. It’s gonna happen again. It is going to happen again. And every time, you know, it’s somebody else’s school, it’s somebody else’s town. It’s somebody else’s community until one day you wake up and it’s not.”

tgustavson@timesreview.com

04/12/13 12:00pm
04/12/2013 12:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Mourners clung to one another for support during Thursday night's vigil for Demitri Hampton in Riverhead.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Mourners clung to one another for support during a vigil in Riverhead after Demitri Hampton was killed in January. Riverhead Organizing for Action is sponsoring a candlelight vigil Saturday to ask for federal action against gun violence.

A candlelight vigil to ask for federal action against gun violence will take place Saturday evening at Grangebel Riverfront Park in Riverhead.

The vigil, themed “We Have Not Forgotten,” will be held from 8 to 9 p.m.

The event is organized by Riverhead Organizing for Action group, part of a national nonprofit that advocates for federal policies throughout the country.

It comes after several incidents of gun violence that have hit close to home, including the death of Riverhead High School graduate Demitri Hampton, who was gunned down in his cousin’s Flanders home in January.

Residents who have candles are asked to bring them, however some will be provided.

“We shall raise our voices here in Riverhead and pray they are heard all the way to Washington, D.C.,” said Angela De Vito, event organizer for the group.

The group will provide information to those interested in supporting gun policy legislation, according to a release. More information is available at the New Yorkers Against Gun Violence website, at www.nyagv.org.

“We shall ask our national leaders to have the courage and strength to enact legislation that protects citizens in their homes and on the streets of their neighborhoods, towns, and cities,” Ms. De Vito said.

cmiller@timesreview.com

01/19/13 8:00am
01/19/2013 8:00 AM

In the wake of the horrific Newtown, Conn., mass murders on Dec. 14, a recent but nonlethal event occurred Dec. 29 in Riverhead. A 24-year-old man and his 19-year-old girlfriend were robbed at knifepoint after leaving the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center. The response to events like these should be to loosen, not tighten, concealed handgun carry license laws as we proceed down this rather dangerous road. Not only the road traveled by pedestrians along East and West Main Street in downtown Riverhead, but roads across America.

When Donna and I first applied for our pistol licenses, the matter was, and still is, in a proverbial “gray area.” One faction of law enforcement stated that the licensee could carry concealed from home, stop to pick up a container of coffee, a sandwich or pizza at a deli or some such eatery, go to the bathroom if need be, then proceed to the shooting range for practice. Another faction of law enforcement stated that this in-between stopover on the way to the range or upon return is not allowed. Without getting into specifics, the Pistol License Handbook, Office of the Sheriff, County of Suffolk is, for all intents and purposes, ambiguous.

It is a fact that a faction of law enforcement officers wish civilians did not have carry type licenses, period, be they Sportsman’s Carry or Full (Business Type) Carry licenses and regardless of the applicant’s passing a thorough background check. The word “Carry” carries the connotation and denotation that you can carry, and we’re back to the “gray area” of ambiguity cited above.

Conversely, there is a faction of law enforcement that feels quite differently, realizing that a properly trained civilian with a concealed legal handgun license and a loaded weapon on his or her person has the ability to diffuse a potentially volatile situation, such as a perpetrator brandishing a weapon and/or exhibiting deadly force. There is a big difference between these two examples, and a responsible armed citizen must know the difference.

Keep in mind that New York State’s handgun license screening is among the most thorough and strictest in the nation. Here is my thesis: Licensed handgun “Carry” holders should be allowed to carry concealed, 24/7.

If a licensed handgun holder was picking up a pizza after dark (let alone at 4 p.m., when Nick Galioto and his girlfriend had just left the Long Island Aquarium and were robbed at knifepoint of both their wallets and cellphones) it doesn’t really matter if it’s in a dangerous downtown Riverhead area or the affluent, tranquil town of Newtown, Conn., where 26 lives were claimed by mass murderer Adam Lanza. Here is my underlying motif: It’s not purely a matter of more gun control that we need in this country. There is the need for government agencies via law enforcement to effectively work with mental health agencies to control potential threats. This is, of course, easier said than done because the present laws surrounding these issues are the laws that must be changed and then monitored. We are at war on several fronts in this great country. The best we can do as responsible citizens at this moment in time is to protect ourselves by arming ourselves. The police are not omnipresent. The police could not help Mr. Galioto and his girlfriend on Long Island. The police could not help 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Take the time to look up a website called Front Sight. They’re all about firearms training. They are the very best in this country. If you know Donna and me, you know we impart sound advice. Law enforcement agencies throughout this country working in concert with Front Sight could, and would, properly train and prepare citizens to protect themselves as well as responsibly defend and take back this nation that we are gradually losing on several fronts. Next, take the time to write your legislators and tell them to wake up — fast.

Riverhead resident Robert Banfelder is a thriller novelist, outdoors writer and co-host of Cablevision TV’s “Special Interests with Bob & Donna”

01/18/13 5:00pm
01/18/2013 5:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Assemblyman Dan Losquadro in 2011.

Members of a pro-gun Long Island web forum have been bombarding state Assemblyman Dan Losquadro’s Facebook page with comments critical of his vote in favor of stricter gun control measures in New York State.

They’re also complaining that their comments are getting deleted.

And at least one member has started a Facebook page called ”Dan Losquadro is Dishonest,” calling on people to protest the second-term assemblyman’s campaign events as he runs for Brookhaven Town highway superintendent.

“Dan has told everyone he is an avid shooter, supporter of the Second Amendment, and is against the rifle ban that was recently passed in New York and then only hours later he voted for it,” the “Dan Losquadro is Dishonest” page states.

The 6,000-member Long Island Firearms website reports comments members posted on the Brookhaven Town Republican Committee Facebook page have also been removed.

“What would we expect?” one poster wrote. “They don’t support the 2nd Amendement, why would they support the 1st?”

“Nothing worse than a politician who isn’t man enough to face the music for a vote he cast,” another stated.

Mr. Losquadro, a Republican from Shoreham and self-described pro-Second Amendment advocate, says he voted for the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act because there were sections the Republicans were able to negotiate into it which he feels will have more of an effect on gun crime that gun restrictions.

These include requirements that mental health care providers report threats made by patients, increased penalties for gun offenses, a section making gun ownership records no longer public, and measures streamlining the steps needed to get mental health care for people who need it.

He says he’s been taking phone calls about his vote and is happy to explain his position to anyone who calls.

As for the Facebook comments, he said “it’s a political page and I actually don’t manage that page.”

“I think, ultimately, there were comments that were inappropriate, there were comments that had nothing to do with the post they were attached to, and I think, ultimately, it was decided that instead of getting into a back and forth with individuals, the page was taken down for a period of time,” he said.

He said the people he’s spoken to about his vote have come to understand the process that went into it.

“The way this process was forced on the legislature by the governor, there were a lot of things negotiated into the bill by the Republicans that the Democrats did not want to give up,” he said. “Voting against those things we tried so hard to get in this bill that would have had a real effect on public safety, wasn’t something I wanted to do.”

“I have tried to call everybody back and speak about it,” Mr. Losquadro said.

Mr. Losquadro says there are things in the bill he disagrees with, such as the seven-round limit on magazine size,  but he believes the good parts of the bill were more important.

He’s also heard from a lot of people concerned about gun violence in the wake of the recents shootings at a Connecticut elementary school, he said, adding that he’s spoke at a lot of local school forums on the subject.

“There are a lot of people who are very nervous about [gun violence],” he said.

In a press release on his vote on the SAFE bill, issued earlier this week, Mr. Losquadro said:

“This is not a perfect world and at the end of the day I voted for the act because I do believe it will make a positive difference in making our communities and schools safer. As the husband of a teacher and the father of a 3 year old son, that is my top priority.”

And what about state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who also voted for the SAFE act?

He seems to have gotten off easier than Mr. Losquadro. There’s just a few mentions of him on the Long Island Firearms site, and some comments about the SAFE act posted on his Facebook page.

The senator, however, also had previously set up a strict policy for posting to his Facebook page, which says the page’s managers have the right to remove comments that are, among other things, derogatory, inappropriate, personal attacks, or not related to the original post or discussion.

tgannon@timesreview.com