A New York Republican who is running for the 24th Congressional District may have broken federal safety guidelines by not properly securing a government-issued firearm that was used in a robbery where two people died.
According to a report published by Syracuse.com, John Katko was working as a federal prosecutor in December 1999 when he asked for Justice Department permission to carry a concealed weapon.
That gun was stolen about four months later when Katko left it on the floor of his Chevy pickup truck in front of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Syracuse. Although a police report from April 2000 asserted that the gun had been in a green canvas bag, Katko told Syracuse.com that it had been locked in a briefcase.
Police later determined that the gun had been used in a robbery less than a month after it was stolen. Two men died and a third man survived being shot in the back during the crime. However, tests showed that Katko's firearm was not the murder weapon.
In a statement, Katko confirmed that the gun was his.
"Legal gun safety is a responsibility all gun owners have. I have always complied with written protocols and department procedures and followed the personal safety advice and training of federal law enforcement professionals," he said. "This experience is a reminder that even those fighting to protect the public and secure justice for victims can become victims of crime themselves. No one is immune."
Although Katko broke no federal or state gun laws, he may have run afoul of other government regulations. Syracuse.com examined the rules in place at the time Katko received the firearm, and found that he may have violated guidelines from both the U.S. Marshal's Service and the U.S. Attorney's Manual.
By accepting the weapon, Katko would have agreed to U.S. Marshal's Service guidelines that "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."
The U.S. Attorney's Manual also states that "[e]veryone, especially those with young children, is required to comply with the presidential directive to secure their firearms with safety locking devices (gun locks) and receive proper instruction for the use of approved firearms."
Campaign spokesperson Erin O'Connor told Syracuse.com that Katko had not been issued a trigger lock along with the weapon.
In the end, the Justice Department concluded that Katko would not face a reprimand, and disciplinary action was not taken.
But 34-year police veteran John DeCarlo explained that Katko, at the very least, had broken some of the most fundamental gun-safety rules.
"It's no different than for a citizen with a gun permit," DeCarlo pointed out. "The weapon always has to be kept, when not in your possession, with a gun lock or a barrel lock in a gun safe."
"Was it a wise thing to leave a gun in the vehicle?" he added. "At one time, that was a fairly common practice. But I feel the weapon would have been in a more safe condition if it had not been stored in his vehicle."
"It's a good example of how not to handle a weapon."
Katko is on record opposing a 2013 U.S. Senate bill to close loopholes on background checks for gun purchases.
"I am for stepping up enforcement for those people who illegally obtain guns -- criminals -- and I will do everything in my power to make sure the New York SAFE Act never becomes a federal law," he said.
On Thursday, Katko vowed that he would "not allow this story to distract from the needs of Central New York voters regarding jobs, our economy, fairness, and failed leadership in Washington."
[Photo: .45-caliber Glock pistol (Shutterstock)]