Mike Sullivan hoped that by moving out from behind a computer and onto the lawn of West Capitol Park, his message would be easier to hear.
“I think it does more good to be here than to be sitting at home just typing on Facebook,” he said, a large sign resting on his hip on a chilly Saturday.
He looked out over the crowd. About 2,000 people had swarmed the park between the Capitol and the Alfred E. Smith Building in Albany. Many waved American flags and makeshift signs.
“We the people,” read several dozen signs. Some carried commonly heard arguments against gun control: “Guns don’t kill, people kill.” Some were sarcastic: “Spoons cause diabetes.”
One showed a picture of a gun, with the message “This machine kills fascists” while another posed the question: “I am willing to protect my Second Amendment rights. Are you willing to die trying to take them away from me?”
“I’m kind of hoping that they get the idea that guns are important to people, and so is the Second Amendment and the Constitution,” said Sullivan, who drove more than three hours from Watkins Glen to join gun owners and Second Amendment activists for a rally at the state Capitol.
The crowd was full of young and old, people wrapped tightly in winter jackets and camouflage sweatshirts, NRA logos on caps, men chewing tobacco and kids tucked against parents’ bellies for warmth.
It was part of a series of nationwide rallies in support of gun rights, just days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the most restrictive gun law in the nation.
Sullivan said he’s unsure how the new law will affect him as a gun owner. He owns several guns and wasn’t sure if the two 10-round clips he owns were now illegal.
“We don’t all live in the city,” he said. “A lot of us live out in the country, and guns are a form of recreation for us.”
Activists promoted the rallies in state capitals nationwide primarily through social media. They were held days after President Barack Obama unveiled a sweeping package of gun-control proposals in response to the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre on Dec. 14.
The rallies for “Gun Appreciation Day” were spearheaded by Republican consulting firm Political Media.
New York’s law, enacted quickly and with little public debate, tightened the state’s assault-weapon ban and instituted background checks for buying ammunition. It passed with broad support in the Legislature, but some lawmakers who opposed it vowed at Saturday’s rally they would keep fighting.
“This battle is not over. It has just begun,” Assemblyman Steven McLaughlin, R-Melrose, said. “This was abuse of power by a man [Cuomo] who wanted to be president but now never will.”
“This week, representative democracy did not work,” added Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville.
It didn’t take long for former Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, to rile the crowd into chants of “USA” and “America” during a rousing speech admonishing his former colleagues in the state Legislature for supporting the new laws.
“Gov. Cuomo has no idea what he just awoke,” he shouted, to a grumbling roar from the crowd. “These politicians here in Albany want to go with what is popular, with what they think the people want, with what will sell, with what the media will write.”
This was the first major public appearance for Amedore after losing his bid for the newly created 46th Senate District seat to Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk after an extended legal and recount battle ended Friday.
Kelly Sandberg, 45, of Catskill, said she expected the crowd to be smaller.
“It’s really great to see so many people that are supporting this,” she said, hoisting a cardboard sign bearing pictures of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin and the message: “Mass murderers agree on gun control.”
It was her first time rallying for a cause, she said.