GOLDENS BRIDGE, N.Y. – Katonah-Lewisboro Schools Superintendent Paul Kreutzer has signed a letter with 77 other members of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents calling for gun legislation.
Seventy-eight superintendents in the council signed the letter as a reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The letter calls for "adequate funding and access" to mental health services provided at the state and federal level, for the federal assault rifle ban to be reinstated and for the federal "gun show loophole" to be closed.
"We, the superintendents of the 78 school districts represented by the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, call on our state and federal legislators to immediately enact stricter gun control legislation," the letter reads.
“We went along with that because we don’t want to be heartbroken losing more children,” Kreutzer said. “We don’t want to see more loss of life.”
Kreutzer said that over the course of his career, he has attended the funerals of 15 children, including two lost to gun violence in the Katonah-Lewisboro school district in 2011.
“I don’t want to see more,” he said. “The most painful thing a superintendent can do is bury a child.”
Kreutzer said that weeks after the Sandy Hook shootings took place in Newtown, Conn., he was on the Internet when he came across photos of the young victims.
“My daughter has the same outfit that one of the victims was wearing,” he said. “That really got to me.”
The superintendents' letter also calls for anyone convicted of a violent crime, whether misdemeanor or felony, to be barred from buying a gun, even if the person committed the crime as a juvenile.
At gun shows in New York, purchasers of firearms must undergo a National Instant Criminal Background Check. Under federal law unlicensed dealers at gun shows are not required to perform background checks.
Violators of New York's gun show laws are subject to misdemeanor criminal charges. Gun show operators who violate the law are subject to a fine of up to $10,000. Owning a pistol in New York requires a permit. Owning a shotgun or rifle does not require a permit.
Scott Sommavilla, president of the Westchester County Firearm Owners Association, said legislation should start where there is common ground, instead of immediately tackling gun control.
"Every single one of these has been a mental health issue," said Sommavilla, referring to mass shootings such as at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Virginia Tech University, the two deadliest in modern U.S. history.
"What can we do now? Mental health," he said. "Those should be done first because it's quickest and promotes the most safety for our children."
Sommavilla also said a divided Congress doesn't bode well for any controversial legislation.
"We barely got (Hurricane) Sandy money out of it. What makes you think gun legislation is going to come out of anything?" he said.