The Perfect Enemy | Claudia Tenney talks gun violence, COVID and January 6 hearings
July 1, 2022

Claudia Tenney talks gun violence, COVID and January 6 hearings

Claudia Tenney talks gun violence, COVID and January 6 hearings  Utica Observer Dispatch

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The mass shooting of 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket in May has hit home for U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford. 

The alleged shooter was from Conklin, a Broome County village in Tenney’s congressional district. She said she’s heard from families in Conklin worried about their families and communities. 

Tenney, who was endorsed by the NRA and has an A rating from the gun lobby, said mass casualty events are connected to crime and violence around the country, but did not single out firearms. She cited events like the six people killed and dozens injured during a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, by a driver in an SUV. 

Tenney said she believes mental health problems in the country have been exacerbated by the internet and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. She pointed to examples like the triple murder committed by Paul Bumbolo in Utica in 2015, in which Bumbolo was held for a mental health evaluation after killing the family dog but released several hours later. 

“I think there’s a naïve view sometimes by Democratic legislators that everybody can be in an unrestricted setting and we’ll figure out a way to have them out in society,” Tenney said. “But not everybody can.” 

While the shooter in Buffalo previously was transported to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, it would not prevent him from legally purchasing a gun, as it was not an involuntary commitment. A diagnosed mental disability or commitment to a mental institution could flag someone attempting to purchase a gun on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Tenney voted for reforms to the NICS Act in the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2018, which introduced penalties for government agencies for not reporting to the background check system. 

Tenney co-sponsored bipartisan legislation, the REACHING Improved Mental Health Outcomes for Patients Act, to reauthorize and improve programs treating adult mental health, suicide prevention, substance abuse and related issues. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in March. 

Tenney said efforts like the Bipartisan Background Checks Act or H.R. 8, would not have prevented recent mass shootings. 

“I just don’t see any of the solutions being proposed by the Democrats that would solve the problem or stop the kind of violence you’re seeing,” she said. “Because you’re seeing violence — it’s not just the gun and it’s not only guns. It’s symptomatic of society.” 

State COVID-19 investigation 

In a letter sent June 1, Tenney asked Gov. Kathy Hochul to ensure the independent inquiry into the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is “comprehensive and truly independent.” The letter called New York’s response “some of the most knee-jerk and draconian measures” and criticized former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to require long-term care facilities to accept COVID patients. 

More than 9,000 patients still recovering from coronavirus were released from hospitals and returned to extended care facilities early in the pandemic, according to a report from the Associated Press. The Cuomo administration also admitted to underreporting the overall number of COVID-19 deaths of long-term care residents. 

“I’m going to make sure Gov. Hochul doesn’t drop the ball on this because she is in the position to take care of it,” Tenney said. “Our seniors are vitally important. People with special needs in these long-term care facilities are vulnerable. I want to make sure these people don’t go through this again.” 

Tenney is the sponsor of the Essential Caregivers Act, which has bipartisan support in the House. The bill would require long-term care facilities to establish a program to permit up to two caregivers, such as friends or family, to provide daily assistance, emotional support or companionship during a medical emergency. 

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January 6 committee hearings

Tenney was not a seated member of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021 due to the protracted legal review of the results in New York’s 22nd Congressional District. She views the hearings connected to the attack on the U.S. Capitol to be politically motivated and intended to change election law, however. 

Representatives are expected to make the case for changes to the 1887 Electoral Count Act to prevent ambiguities that led to pressure on then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject some state electors and re-elect Donald Trump.

Tenney said the hearings will be held on primetime TV because people have moved on from the Jan. 6 attack and are instead focused on issues she hears about in Upstate New York like inflation, gas prices and the border crisis. 

“I think the Democrats have to do everything they can. whether it’s changing our election rules, to promote Jan. 6 as the worst thing that’s happened in American history,” she said. “And they want to make sure it’s front and center to stop the Red Wave from coming to shore.”

The New Hartford Republican said the commission’s investigation is more about politics at this point. 

“And had it been a bipartisan committee, where actual Republicans got the same type of ability to ask witnesses questions – and I’m not talking about (U.S. Reps.) Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who both have a clear case of Trump Derangement Syndrome – but I mean a real, real investigation into what happened, I think a lot of people would like to know,” Tenney said. “But it just looks like a real political operation and now an attempt to change our election rules to make a permanent majority of Democrats for at least the foreseeable future.” 

The Observer-Dispatch interviews U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New Hartford, the first week of each month about current issues related to the Mohawk Valley and federal government.

Steve Howe is the city reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email him at showe@gannett.com.