LANCASTER, N.Y. (WIVB) — Congressman Chris Jacobs (R-27) addressed school safety in a press conference at a VFW post in Lancaster Friday and said he supports a ban on the sale of AR-15s, as well as increasing the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21. He was joined by New York State gubernatorial candidate and fellow congressman Lee Zeldin (R-1) at the presser.

Jacobs said he does not wish to confiscate any assault weapons, but would vote for a bill that would ban the sale of assault weapons. He said the Democrats have not brought any such bill to the floor, that they haven’t had the political will to do so, but recommended anyone who may lead the effort to propose a bill should study the federal assault weapon ban of 1994 to understand why it was not effective.

I believe it’s equally important to be transparent on my views on this, and certainly what has happened here in our community — an unprecedented massacre — and now as what’s happened, close to one of the records of massacres of beautiful little children — if that doesn’t cause somebody to think and evaluate and try to get more [done]… so I’ve talked to a lot of people that I respect in the Second Amendment community, law enforcement, and others. So I want to be completely transparent of where I am in Congress. If an assault weapons bill came to the floor that would ban something like an AR-15, I would vote for it. So I want to be clear: I would vote for it.

One thing I did see that was the most effective was the capacity limit of the magazine, and I think that’s an area that maybe we should look, first and foremost to, to limit the capacity of the magazine,” Jacobs continued. “Why does a civilian need a 30 or 50-round magazine? Even for recreation or hunting, I believe something along the lines of 10 is perfectly reasonable. To your question on age limit, individuals cannot buy beer, they cannot get cigarettes [until they’re] 21. I think it’s perfectly reasonable, at least for these highly lethal, high-capacity semi-automatic weapons should be 21.”

Congressman Chris Jacobs

Jacobs said that the community he represents in the 27th district, and the one he is running to represent in the 23rd district, are rural, ‘Second Amendment communities.’ He said he respects the heritage of hunting in those communities and the need for self-defense in an area where first responder call times can be up to an hour, and that he tries to represent the perspective of those rural communities as best he can. He later acknowledged that his position on the sale of assault weapons could be controversial to those he represents.

“The tragedy we witnessed on Tuesday in Texas was heartbreaking and horrifying,” Jacobs said in his opening remarks. “There’s a special place in hell for someone so vile that they would indiscriminately murder children and their teachers. There is no place in this world for someone so deranged and demonic.”

Jacobs also addressed the May 14 white supremacist mass shooting in a Buffalo Tops supermarket.

“Additionally, we witnessed the racist, hate-filled massacre of 10 individuals — friends and neighbors — in Buffalo two weeks ago. I join the entirety of the nation in praying for these families and grieving the loss of so many lives lost far too early.”

Regarding age limits, Jacobs said the two 18-year-olds accused in the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings had background checks prior to purchasing guns, but nothing was found. He added that in New York and other states, records prior to turning 18 are often sealed or expunged, leaving nothing to be found during those background checks. Jacobs also said a high percentage of mass shooters have been between the ages of 18 and 20, and he believes this could be fixed if the age was raised.

The press conference featuring both congressmen can be viewed at the top of the page. Jacobs’ additional comments regarding assault weapons can be seen in the video player immediately above.

Jacobs said he and his colleagues are looking to find ways to improve school safety, including single points of entry, proper identification for access, pre-confirmation of all visitors, keycard access systems, updated camera systems, bulletproof glass and metal detectors, with some ideas already having been implemented in the Buffalo Public Schools.

The congressman also said he is in support of security resource officers at every school across the nation and has introduced legislation deemed the “School Resource Officer Act,” which he said would reauthorize the COPS program to $500 million from 2023 to 2026.

“Both sides of the aisle agree we should do something to protect our students and our kids,” Jacobs said.

Congressman Zeldin, also a father, spoke on increasing safety in schools and bipartisan legislation as well.

“This is something that hits home for all of us as parents,” Congressman Zeldin added. “This isn’t the first time that we are gathering to talk about an incident taking the young, precious beautiful lives inside of United States classrooms that should be safe settings for our students to be able to learn, to thrive. I can’t even fathom what it must be like for a parent to receive that call.”

He addressed the growing divide between political parties, saying the sides have agreed on past legislation regarding school and gun safety.

“Republicans and Democrats can agree — we have in the past,” Zeldin said, citing the 2017 “Fix NICS legislation and the “STOP School Violence Act of 2018,” following the shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Zeldin, however, shot down ideas of ammunition microstamping legislation, and said he was not against 18-year-olds carrying guns.

There is a right, if you choose, as a 19-year-old, you’re a 20-year-old in New York State and you want to safely and securely obtain a firearm for your personal self-defense, that’s a Second Amendment right. Now, if you want to propose a change to the Second Amendment, that’s a whole other debate. But the Second Amendment does exist, and for those law-abiding 18, 19, 20-year-olds, they don’t lose that right.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin

Zeldin then accused his gubernatorial opponent, Gov. Kathy Hochul, of recalibrating her political compass based off of her new office. When asked about the Republican-led state of Florida limiting gun sales to those 21 and over, Zeldin reaffirmed that he is in support of those 18 and older to lawfully obtain a firearm.

In addition to weapons regulations, Jacobs proposed a potential grant program for other public places to “beef up” security

“This young man here in Tops Markets, he clearly went to that site because he knew it would be very vulnerable and not well-protected. So, on top of being crazy, he was a coward,” Jacobs said. “One other reason this individual was able to prevail with the lethality he did was because he had bulletproof armor on — on his head and his body.”

Congressman Jacobs spoke to the efforts of retired police officer and security guard Aaron Salter, who defended the store in the attack and shot the suspect before he himself was killed.

“Mr. Salter, who tried to take him down, could not because of that armor. If he was able to do that, he would not have been killed, nor the remaining people in that store. I believe it’s completely reasonable to say, ‘Bulletproof body armor should be for those in law enforcement, security, those in fields that it makes sense, but every person in society should not be able to go online and buy body armor.'”

Jacobs said he will be putting together a bill to ban the sale of body armor to the public and with permission from Salter’s family, would like to name it after him.

The congressman, who recently voted ‘no’ to the recently proposed Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2022 following the Tops Markets shooting, said it was “an awful piece of legislation,” calling the bill “window dressing, saying it added another level of beaurocracy with no new funding.

“I urge my colleagues to really get to work, and I’m happy to talk about a true, substantive piece of legislation,” he said.