02/02/13 2:00pm
02/02/2013 2:00 PM
A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings last week.

A Bushmaster M-4 semi-automatic, similar to the one allegedly used in the Newtown school shootings.

So I have this old, rusty, single-shot, 20-gauge shotgun sitting in the corner of our bedroom, awaiting its fate.

What to do with it? Leave it where it lies, indefinitely? Attempt to melt it down in the burn barrel out back by the garage? (No, that would be against all sorts of laws, including those of nature.) Sell it through this newspaper’s classified ads? (No, can’t do that because the paper no longer accepts such ads, even for “antique” guns.) Or perhaps eBay? (No, “actual firearms” can’t be listed for sale there either.)

What to do with it? Hey, I have an idea: Why not encourage local police departments to implement gun buyback programs similar to those that have been so successful around the nation, particularly in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre.

This is basically how they work: Police departments set a place and time where and when guns of any sort — from single-shot derringers small enough to fit into the palm of your hand to the sort of multi-round assault rifle used to mow down elementary school children in Connecticut — are turned in voluntarily, with no questions asked. Those turning in the guns are compensated — sometimes with cash, but more often with gift cards that can’t be used to buy another gun — and the unwanted guns are properly disposed of by the cops.

I very much doubt that buyback programs here would generate the quantity of guns produced in big city programs, if only because our populations are so much smaller by comparison. But any gun taken off the street is a gun that won’t figure in an accident or an act of violence, such as the tragic shooting in Flanders this weekend, and that’s a very good thing.

Skeptics routinely disparage them as “feel good” programs that do little to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the criminally insane, but that’s not the only objective. As The Trenton (N.J.) Times editorialized after that city’s recent gun buyback program: “They represent an opportunity to safely dispose of old and malfunctioning firearms that could mean death in the hands of a child. We regulate the disposal of appliances, of paint, of outdated medication lest they spill destructive chemicals. It’s logical to be as conscientious about the clearing away of potentially deadly instruments.”

This week I have surveyed the chiefs of police in Southold, Riverhead and Shelter Island, asking them if they would support such a program in their towns, and I will let readers of this column know their responses as soon as I receive them. The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department used to buy back guns, but that program was discontinued when the grant money dried up, according to the department’s public information office.

And time is wasting, as they say, with recent reports in this newspaper about unprecedented sales of guns and ammunition in the wake of the passage of New York State’s tough new Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.

Meanwhile, a reader of my December column on gun control has pledged $1,000 to help implement such a program in Southold Town. And depending on the response we receive from the police chiefs, the former Joan Giger Walker and I will pledge another $1,000.

I wonder how many other community members would be willing to make small pledges to get the guns off our streets.

And if you’re wavering on this question, please take to heart these words of ex-New York City policeman Howard Martin of Manorville, as quoted in this newspaper last week: “Behind every tree, every window, every door there is a gun. It is the one thing that keeps America free.”

And bloody.

01/24/13 1:47pm
01/24/2013 1:47 PM

Mr. Robert's Convenience Store

Southold police were called to a Greenport convenience store late Wednesday night after getting a call about a man threatening others with a gun, Police Chief Martin Flatley said.

Police later located the gun, which turned out to be a pellet gun, and did not make any arrests, Chief Flatley said.

The incident occurred near Mr. Roberts convenience store on Front Street in Greenport between 8 and 9 p.m., when a man with a gun threatened another man with what appeared to be a gun, Chief Flatley said. Southold Police responded to the scene and a K9 unit was brought to the store to try to find the weapon, he said.

“Whoever it was dumped the gun somewhere and [officers] were able to find it, but it was a pellet gun,” Chief Flatley said.

Since the gun wasn’t a firearm, police couldn’t track the registration to determine who the owner was.

“There were no arrests made because they weren’t able to tie the pellet gun into anybody once they found it,” Chief Flatley said.

An employee at the store Thursday said she had not heard about the incident and that the store’s manager wasn’t available.

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01/10/13 4:32pm
01/10/2013 4:32 PM

“The National Rifle Association of America is made up of over 4 million moms and dads, daughters and sons, who are involved in the national conversation about how to prevent a tragedy like Newtown from ever happening again.  We attended today’s White House meeting to discuss how to keep our children safe and were prepared to have a meaningful conversation about school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids and the collapse of federal prosecutions of violent criminals.

“We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment.  While claiming that no policy proposals would be “prejudged,” this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners – honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans.  It is unfortunate that this Administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen. Instead, we will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works – and what does not.”

Source: Media statement from the NRA.

07/24/12 6:00pm
07/24/2012 6:00 PM

Donald Lechtrecker’s police mug shot.

The man who fired multiple shots from a rifle at a construction site in Orient last week threatened workers on the property one year ago, according to a pair of police reports filed last Tuesday by a caretaker for the property.

The caretaker told police Donald Lechtrecker, 65, threatened three construction workers at the Stevenson Road site one year ago after approaching the crew “in a rage,” complaining of noise. In the report, the caretaker states that Mr. Lechtrecker threatened to harm the individuals present.

In a second report made to police an hour later, the caretaker alleged that Mr. Lechtrecker, who he said has been an “ongoing problem,” may have also fired shots toward an individual at the property last year.

A construction worker at the scene last week said he had never seen Mr. Lechtrecker before he opened fire on the crew, which was building a pool house that stands between Mr. Lechtrecker’s property and the Long Island Sound.

Mr. Lechtrecker is currently facing felony charges of reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon for allegedly firing the high-powered rifle in the direction of the crew. He could face additional charges at a later date, according to the Suffolk County DA’s office.

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07/18/12 12:30pm
07/18/2012 12:30 PM

Donald Lechtrecker’s police mug shot.

The Orient man arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with firing multiple rifle shots toward a work crew told the men he was going to blow their brains out, a construction worker present at the incident told The Suffolk Times.

The worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said the crew was preparing to leave for the day when at about 4 p.m. they heard a loud crack coming from the property adjacent to the Stevenson Road job site. Minutes later, they saw neighbor Donald Lechtrecker leave his porch, headed in their direction.

“One of the other guys said, ‘He’s got a gun,’ ” the construction worker told a reporter Wednesday.

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | The trucks that were allegedly fired upon yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Lechtrecker, 65, fired multiple shots into the air and later in the direction of the workers using a Winchester 30/30 lever action rifle, Southold Town police said. Two construction vehicles were struck by bullets, but no one was injured, according to police.

“He told us he was going to blow our brains out,” the worker said. “I saw the muzzle drop and point in our direction, I just dropped and took cover behind the house.”

Police reported finding Mr. Lechtrecker lying in a grassy area approximately 100 feet from the job site. He was charged with felony reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon and could face additional charges based on a review of the case by the Suffolk County district attorney’s office.

The workers are building a pool and pool house between Mr. Lechtrecker’s home and Long Island Sound, the construction worker said. He said he’d never seen Mr. Lechtrecker before Tuesday.

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | The home of Donald Lechtrecker on Stevenson Road in Orient. A construction worker said Mr. Lechtrecker shot at his crew, which was building a pool house on an adjacent area, from the grassy spot at the edge of the property.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said Mr. Lechtrecker gave investigators “no clear indication” of why he fired the shots. Chief Flatley said Mr. Lechtrecker was incoherent and rambling when he spoke with police.

A neighbor said he has lived near Mr. Lechtrecker for nearly two decades.

“He’s always been a nice guy,” the neighbor said. “I guess this is just one of those things.”

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