This is one of those weird stories coming out of 435 congressional races this year. In New York’s 24th congressional district, Democratic Congressman Dan Maffei went after his Republican opponent, John Katko, for having his firearm stolen 14 years ago, which was used in a robbery that killed two people.
It’s tragic, but Maffei is attacking him on it. Katko was granted special permission to have a .40 caliber handgun after threats were made against him and his family. When you’re the Assistant U.S. Attorney for two decades and took on Syracuse’s’ street gangs, putting 130 of them in jail. Needless to say, some people wanted him dead (via Syracuse.com):
Katko broke no state or federal gun laws, and he was not disciplined by the Justice Department. But a review of the case shows he likely violated federal policies for the safe handling and storage of government-issued weapons.
Katko, 51, of Camillus, is running against U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei, D-Syracuse, in the 24th Congressional District.
Police reports and other public records show Katko asked for and received Justice Department permission in December 1999 to carry a concealed weapon — a .40 caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol — for his personal protection.
When issued the gun after a threat against his life, Katko had to agree to follow the U.S. Marshals Service policy that requires “weapons be concealed from view when not in use” and “stored in a secure manner to prevent theft, tampering, or misuse when not being carried.”
A presidential directive from 1997 required agencies to provide gun or trigger locks to federal law enforcement personnel. The idea was to help secure weapons when they weren’t being carried, and to prevent them from being fired by someone else.
On the night of April 3, 2000, the prosecutor left the pistol on the floor of his Chevy pickup truck after parking in front of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Syracuse’s West Side, according to a police report.
Less than three weeks later, five men dressed in black from head-to-toe burst inside an illegal gambling house on Syracuse’s South Side, setting off a Friday night gunfight. The hail of bullets sent people jumping out of windows to escape from 222 Burt St.
Two men in the house, Vernon Griffin, 39, and the unrelated Henderson Griffin, 62, were shot to death. A third man, Robert Anderson, 47 at the time, survived after being shot in the back.
The gun was recovered and the serial number matched Katko’s handgun. Katko’s spokesperson, Erin O’Connor said he wasn’t issued a trigger lock, but given a lock box to keep it secure. The story also had Joe Ciciarelli, chief deputy at the U.S. Marshals Service in Syracuse, going on the record saying he can’t recall when the trigger lock directive was enforced back in 2000. The Justice Department reviewed the incident and didn’t reprimand Katko, who kept the firearm locked in his briefcase case, concealed, and out of sight while attending church. This is a closed case.
Katko is running on his image as a pro-gun, crime-fighting former prosecutor. He’s voiced his concerns about NY’s SAFE Act, calling it a “knee-jerk reaction to a tragedy [Sandy Hook].” But Maffei is possibly using the pro-gun angle to cut into Katko’s image. At the New York State Fair, Rep. Maffei said, “he’s [Katko] running for the United States Congress, and he’s claiming to be tough on crime…so he’s asking people to look at his record, and this (stolen gun incident) is part of it.”
In short, Maffei is deploying bush league tactics on a man who had a firearm sanctioned by the federal government for his personal protection and that of his family. Additionally, he doesn’t need to use these cheap tactics; he’ll likely win re-election come November. In the meantime, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is slamming Katko. Their northeast regional press secretary Marc Brumer has been especially aggressive.
— Marc Brumer (@MarcPBrumer) August 28, 2014
John Katko’s statement doesn’t even acknowledge the lives lost or their families as a result of the robbery? #ny24
— Marc Brumer (@MarcPBrumer) August 28, 2014
The man didn’t kill anyone, but Katko released a statement saying:
Fourteen years ago I, too, became the victim of a crime. My protective weapon was stolen from a locked briefcase concealed from view in my locked vehicle.
I left the weapon in that vehicle as my wife and I felt uncomfortable taking it into an area church for a required meeting with other Onondaga County Foster Parent Program volunteers…clearly not an appropriate venue to be carrying a weapon of any kind.
This incident was fully investigated by the United States Department of Justice and the United States Marshals Service and no wrong doing was found.
The stolen weapon was later recovered on a suspect in a double homicide; tests confirmed the weapon was not used in the commission of that crime.
Those facts remain true today.
My opponents have chosen to rehash this incident that was fully reported 14 years ago in an attempt to make it an issue in my race for U.S. Congress.
I say to them and to all that I have no regrets about taking every security precaution required these past 20 years to reduce the very real physical threats to my children, my wife, and me.
On a side note, federal agents have lost their firearms on the job. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the law enforcement agency in charge with enforcing federal gun laws, have their “weapons stolen or loses them more frequently than other federal law enforcement agencies, according to a 2008 report from the Office of the Inspector General with the U.S. Department of Justice:”
Agents left their guns behind in bathroom stalls, at a hospital, outside a movie theater and on a plane, according to the records, obtained Tuesday by the news organization under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
In December 2009, two 6-year-old boys spotted an agent’s loaded ATF Smith & Wesson .357 on a storm sewer grate in Bettendorf, Iowa. The agent lived nearby and later said he couldn’t find his gun for days but didn’t bother reporting it — until it hit the local newspaper.
In Los Angeles in 2011, an agent went out to a bar drinking with other agents and friends, reportedly consuming four alcoholic beverages. The next morning he woke up and realized his ATF-issued Glock was gone. It was not found.
In Milwaukee, an undercover agent had three of his guns, including an ATF-owned machine gun, stolen from his government truck parked at a coffee shop in September 2012.
In a five-year span from 2002-’07, for example, 76 ATF weapons were reported stolen, lost or missing, according to the report. That’s nearly double the rate of the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, when considering rates per 1,000 agents.
When I was at CNSNews.com, the ATF contacted me to clear up the record about this damaging piece of information highlighting their incompetence. While they offered some facts and figures regarding the recovery of firearms that were missing or lost, they couldn’t say if those firearms were used in crimes during the period of their misplacement.
Katko shouldn’t have any regrets for taking self-defense measures, and Maffei tying Katko, as being part of the problem when it comes to fighting crime is ridiculous.