An anti-gun advocacy group put a North Shore lawmaker in its crosshairs over the weekend when members protested outside his office.
Gays Against Guns — a nonprofit organization made up of lesbian, gay and transgender people and others who believe in a ban of high-capacity magazine guns and assault weapons, stricter background checks and online gun sales — held a protest in Smithtown over the weekend.
The group said they chose to rally in front of the office of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) because they believe he is a “puppet” for the NRA and hasn’t worked enough to create legislation that effectively limits the use of guns.
Zeldin said protestors are not focusing on the real issue, which is preventing terrorists from getting firearms without limiting Americans’ constitutional rights.
Duncan Osborne, a member of Gays Against Guns, said he believes Zeldin doesn’t have an interest in regulating firearms. He also criticized Zeldin’s Protect America Act of 2015. The bill would grant the attorney general authority to deny firearms and explosives to individuals who are engaged in terrorist activities or where there is a reasonable belief that an individual may use a firearm or explosive in connection with terrorism.
“His piece of legislation is little more than a Band-Aid,” Osborne said in a phone interview. “He has made no serious effort to get it passed. His bill was a joke to make Republicans look like they’re doing something on gun regulation when in fact it is nearly impossible to implement.”
Zeldin said the issue is being influenced by politics.
“It’s unfortunate that the Democratic Party and their most loyal supporters are politicizing this issue and [the] bill to keep firearms and explosives out of the hands of terrorists,” he said in an email, according to spokesperson Jennifer DiSiena.
When Zeldin first introduced the bill last year, he said the legislation would “help prevent terrorists from purchasing firearms or explosives, while putting in place safeguards to ensure that the rights of law abiding Americans are protected.”
According to Congress’ website, the bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee in Dec. 2015, and then referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations in Jan. 2016. The bill currently has 14 Republican co-sponsors.
Gays Against Guns also criticized Zeldin’s connections to the NRA, calling him a puppet for the organization, and the NRA his puppet master.
“We don’t think he belongs in Congress,” Osborne said. “He has no interest in regulating firearms.”
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, another nonprofit organization that participated in the protest, agreed Zeldin should leave office.
“They’ve got to go if we’re ever going to pass the kind of meaningful gun regulation,” Executive Director of NYAGV Leah Gunn Barrett said in a statement.
DiSiena said Zeldin is fighting to support and protect his constituents.
“His positions are not for sale to anyone,” DiSiena said in an email. “If these disrupters want to actually keep Americans safe, they would work with Congressman Zeldin as opposed to launching highly partisan protests against him. These groups should unite behind Congressman Zeldin’s efforts if their genuine intentions are to keep terrorists from being able to purchase firearms.”
According to GovTrack, Zeldin was among the highest 10 percent of House Republicans joining bipartisan bills in 2015 and supporting progressive ideology.