Tells them Congress needs to hear them; change is possible

VICTOR — Sean Martineck is a Blue Devil through and through. They seem to follow him everywhere.

The Buffalo native went to Kenmore West High School, home of the Blue Devils; on to college at State University at Fredonia, also home to Blue Devils; and now he lives in Victor where his two daughters attend school in a district whose sports teams are the Blue Devils.

He mentioned that to fellow Blue Devils Monday in the government class of Victor Senior High School teacher Mike Myers before moving on to the more serious topic of gun violence, the Second Amendment and getting illegal guns off the streets — something that takes up a great deal of his time as a special agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, assigned to the Violent Crime Task Force in the Rochester satellite office.

In fact, shortly before appearing at the school, he received a call about someone standing on a corner in downtown Rochester with a gun. Over the weekend, a tip led to the confiscation of a weapon that had been stolen in Maine.

Martineck was the lead investigator in the case involving the 2012 Christmas Eve shooting in Webster in which a man with an illegally obtained shotgun set his house on fire and then shot at arriving first responders, killing two West Webster firefighters and injuring two others.

He spends most of his working time in the city of Rochester “because the gun crime is brutal there,” he said.

Martineck is friends with Myers, who uses project-based learning in his classes with students discussing an issue and then coming up with ideas on possible solutions.

They're currently studying the Constitution, but since the Feb. 14 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the focus shifted a bit to narrowing in on the Second Amendment and the right to keep and bear arms.

Some of the ideas students are coming up with include banning all assault weapons, making doctors report on patients with mental illness and spending more money to make schools safer.

“Those of you who are saying take away all the AR-15s , ask him about it,” Myers said. “Has it been done before?”

Martineck talked about his extensive training and showed the seniors some of his equipment including his tactical belt with pockets for a medical kit, radio and weapons; ballistic helmet; tactical vest; and entry vest used when executing search warrants.

“Imagine putting on all of this and you get out of a raid van and the guy takes off and you have to run after him with all this stuff on,” he said, estimating the equipment weighs between 35 and 40 pounds.

The vest alone, which students passed around to get a feel for its volume, was pretty heavy, weighing at least 20 pounds.

Martineck, who has done about 1,500 search warrant entries, said a lot of times the people they're arresting tell them “I'm so glad it's you guys. I'm so glad it's you guys.”

He said a lot of the illegal guns in the city of Rochester are used by drug dealers who are so used to robbing one another that they're glad to find out their door was broken down by police instead of another criminal intending to harm them.

He then asked what parts of the Constitution the kids thought pertained most to his work.

“Four through eight,” answered Ryan, quickly correcting himself to add in the Second Amendment, which Martineck read, noting it was passed in 1791.

“What did our Founding Fathers mean by that?” he asked. “Do you think our Founding Fathers envisioned the type of world we live in today?”

He then reviewed a history of laws governing firearms and events that triggered them, starting with the 1934 National Firearms Act that required tax stamps on machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and destructive devices like a pipe bomb.

Martineck asked what the class thought prompted Congress to pass the law.

“The Great Depression,” said one.

“The mob,” said another.

“The mob — Al Capone. You got it,” Martineck responded. “Killing people right in broad daylight.”

In 1968, he said, Congress passed the Gun Control Act regulating interstate commerce of firearms, prompted by the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, brother of the slain president for whom he served as U.S. attorney general.

The attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 led to passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act, named after Press Secretary James Brady, who was also shot in the attempt on Reagan's life. That act became law in 1994, requiring federal background checks on firearms purchases and imposing a five-day waiting period.

In 1994, Congress also enacted a 10-year Federal Assault Weapons Ban that has since expired.

“My stance, as an ATF agent, is if they say this is the law, I'm going to enforce it,” Martineck said, noting he personally believes no one but police and military should have assault weapons.

Although he has been shot at and seen multiple dead people, he said he was stunned by footage of the Las Vegas scene during the mass shooting at a Jason Aldean concert last fall.

“That video shocked me to the core,” Martineck said. “I couldn't believe it. And for what? Are we at the tipping point or as the weeks go on, are we going to forget about it until the next shooting?”

He was bothered by the students' seeming acceptance that there is nothing they can do to stop school shootings because they are not old enough to vote, and believing the momentum in the wake of Parkland will fade like it has after previous shootings.

“I don't vote so I don't feel I have a voice to make change,” said one of the students.

Another named Nick said he believes if the schools attended by the children of Congress members were shot up, that lawmakers would do something right away.

“I don't like the fact that you guys feel like it is what it is,” Martineck said. “I've got two kids right down the road and I worry about them all the time.”

When a girl asked what students can do, he said it is in how they treat each other; if they see someone eating alone at lunch, do they go up and say hello or just walk by?

“You guys have been a great class,” he said. “I don't feel like there can't be a change. If you want something changed, you can do it. You shouldn't feel like status quo. Congress needs to hear you guys. You guys are our future. There's nothing more precious in our society than our kids. If that's not the tipping point, I don't know what is”