Really, David Soares?
Last Saturday when Chuck and I were at the gun show in Saratoga, Albany County District Attorney David Soares was attending a gun-control rally outside. I caught up with him and asked him what he was doing there, since it’s out of his district. The rally was supporting a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. So I asked him straight up, how many of the cases his office prosecutes actually involve these so-called “assault weapons”. Here is what he told me:
He sees them quite often?
In my 15 years as a reporter, I often covered crime, murder, assault, robbery… you name it. When it involved gun violence, it almost ALWAYS involved some sort of handgun. Every once in a while there’d be a shotgun. Assault weapons? Not so much. In fact, I recall having a conversation with Pete Frisoni, who was then the spokesperson for the Schenectady Police Department about gun violence. Specifically, I asked him why so many criminals in his city had such bad aim. He told me that most of the guns they use are handguns because they are easily concealed. They are terrible shooters because they mimic what they see on TV where a bad guy holds the handgun at a side angle and shoots while yelling “M-------R!” Large, clunky assault weapons aren’t the greatest choice for street crime.
Two days after my conversation with Soares, the New York State Senate passed its late night gun control bill. During the process, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco cited some interesting statistics. He said that in the entire state of NY in 2011, 5 murders had been committed with a rifle of ANY kind. 5 murders is 5 too many of course, but they may not have even involved assault weapons at all. So if all of New York State saw fewer than 5 murders even potentially committed with an assault weapon… could Albany County really be disproportionately high in the number of violent crimes involving assault weapons?
My BS meter shot through the roof.
So I decided to do a little digging around into exactly what David Soares considers “quite often”.
I filed a Freedom of Information Request with the District Attorney’s Office. To their credit, they were very quick and forthcoming with the information. Do you know how many murders Albany County saw in all of 2012 that involved an assault weapon?
That’s right. Not one. Zilch. Nada.
Okay, how about robberies with an assault weapon?
Assault, rape or sexual assault with an assault weapon?
Shootings with an assault weapon? Since, you know, we are talking about a gun here.
The only 4 incidents the DA’s office prosecuted involving assault weapons last year involved illegal possession or sale of assault weapons and/or large capacity magazines. They weren’t even being used in the commission of a crime. And guess what? If they were being prosecuted for having illegal weapons, then the existing law WORKED.
Just to triple and quadruple check, I spoke with 4 other law enforcement officials.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says they see assault weapons in fewer than 1% of the cases they deal with across Albany County. Colonie Police Chief Steve Heider says they had NO assault weapons used in any of the crimes in the town of Colonie (the largest town in Albany County, by the way) and they haven’t had one used in at least the last FIVE years. Lt. Tom Heffernan says they didn’t see any in the Town of Bethlehem, either.
In the City of Albany, former longtime police department spokesman James Miller tells me that in the city with the highest gun violence in the entire county, they rarely encountered so-called assault weapons during his time there. As with Schenectady, most of the crimes involve handguns and the occasional shotgun
So tell me again David? How often do you prosecute crimes involving assault weapons?
Sure you do.
I’m calling BS.