New York congressional candidate Anthony Brindisi distanced himself from his own favorable rating from the National Rifle Association a couple weeks ago by calling for a ban on high-capacity magazines and expanding firearm background checks.
Colgate University's College Democrats chapter hosted a town hall with Brindisi on April 8 that was open to community members, students, and professors. During the town hall, he discussed several issues, including taxes and gun control.
Brindisi, who received an endorsement from the gun safety organization Giffords last month, has touted his vote against New York’s Securing Ammunitions and Firearms Act (SAFE Act) in 2013 and has said that he has "many friends who are gun owners." He appeared to be attempting to ease pro-gun rights activists' concerns about him supporting gun control measures, but during the town hall, he argued that his views align more closely with gun-control activists.
A college student asked about his vote on the SAFE Act:
I appreciate your progressive views on gun violence and I appreciate that you don't take any money from the NRA, but when I did a little research, I found that you have a very favorable "A" rating from the NRA and to show young people in particular that you stand up to the gun lobby. If you were elected to Congress, would you support a federal ban on the assault weapons like the AR-15, which was used in the mass shooting?
Brindisi responded to the question by saying that one of the biggest reasons he received the favorable NRA rating was his vote against the SAFE Act, which he attributed to the lack of time he had to read the bill. He said that the typical requirement to read bills before voting on them was three days, and he said Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D., N.Y.) waived that and allowed him only about three hours to digest the bill.
He also said he wanted a law more robust than the SAFE Act.
"Even with the New York SAFE Act, you can still purchase an AR-15 in New York state. It's still legal to own, but the difference with this bill is you can't add certain types of features like high-capacity magazines, which I don't support, to things like AR-15s" Brindisi said. "That's where the focus has got to be. It's getting things like high-capacity magazines off the streets so people can't commit mass carnage when they go out."
The NRA does not support high-capacity magazine bans and has recently backed a lawsuit against Vermont's magazine restrictions
Brindisi, who participated in a "March For Our Lives" gun control rally in Binghamton, N.Y., last month, also voiced his support for universal background checks.
"Take an issue like expanded background checks, something that I support. I think that if there is a commercial sale of a firearm, there should be a background check, okay? You shouldn't be able to go to a gun show or over the internet or a fire sale that does not allow some kind of a background check for a person holding a firearm," Brindisi said at the town hall.
Chris Martin, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Brindisi is failing to be consistent because his positions are too liberal to run on in his district.
"Anthony Brindisi is twisting himself into a pretzel because he knows he is far too liberal for the 22nd District," Martin said.
Colgate student Christabel Yue Chan praised Brindisi's "sensible" response to the gun control question.
"The issue I am most passionate about is gun control, and I think that Mr. Brindisi gave a respectful and sensible view on gun control that acknowledges Americans’ Second Amendment rights but still aims to prevent guns falling into the hands of the wrong people," Chan said.
UPDATE 9:09 PM: This post has been updated with Chris Martin's statement.