Gun rights supporters turned out by the thousands on the muddy West Lawn of the Capitol on Thursday to make their opposition heard to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s gun control legislation passed last month.
Buses from across the state showed up for the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association’s fifth annual Lobby Day and Rally, which drew a record crowd of more than 5,000 people and was headlined by National Rifle Association President David Keene. The crowd was energetic, waving signs and flags, engaging in spirited conversations about the law they uniformily despise, chanting against Cuomo and roundly applauding a cavalcade of speakers who took turns preaching the rights of gun owners.
Lost among the crowd on the lawn was Galway resident Darryl Hill, who described the event as “awesome” and “great.” The event’s advocacy for a total repeal of Cuomo’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, known as the NY SAFE Act, resonated with him.
Included in the law is a limit of seven bullets in a magazine, an enhancment of the state’s assault weapons ban and the creation of a gun registry for firearms.
“They’re infringing on our rights to bear arms,” said Hill, a gun owner. “It affects us personally because they’re outlawing guns that we’ve used for 30 years.”
He was also concerned about the possibility of the state coming to his home to confiscate his guns once the law was fully implemented.
The crowd enthusiastically endorsed the announcement from state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, that she has introduced legislation to repeal the NY SAFE Act.
Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, also highlighted his own legislation, which would amend the law to allow any guns made by Remington Arms in central New York. “I’m pretty confident I won’t get a message of necessity to get that bill through,” he added to laughter, a commentary on the rush to pass the NY SAFE Act. The law received a gubernatorial message of necessity, which allowed it to be immediately passed by the Legislature without the customary three-day delay between the introduction of a bill and a vote.
NRA President David Keene weighed in on the rushed passage, which he said cost the state Legislature its ability to debate the legislation. Although state legislators couldn’t voice their opposition then, he noted that they were getting a chance to speak on Thursday.
“I’m here today because of you and the rights that you have under the Constitution of this country … and the willingness you have shown to stand up for those rights,” he said.
“We’ll help you defeat the politicians that would deprive you of your rights,” Keene added.
A major point highlighted by the crowd was that the Second Amendment wasn’t added to the U.S. Constitution to preserve hunting rights, which has been a rationale Cuomo has used for limiting the number of bullets in a magazine, because hunters don’t need a large capacity. The crowd also bristled at the governor’s assertion that they represented a “vocal minority” and repeatedly vocalized their claim that they are the majority.
The event featured signs and flags with colorful language, which varied in tone and scope. Signs described Cuomo as Adolf Hitler or a fascist, and at least one described the NY SAFE Act as the bidding of the United Nations. Many called for the repeal of the law. Flags included the American flag, the Confederate flag and the Gadsden flag, with its “Don’t Tread on Me” motto. There were also some professional NRA placards being handed out at the event.
Attendees came from all corners of the state, including 26-year-old Tim Castantino, who traveled with 12 other people from outside of Buffalo in a limo. “We all chipped in $100 to arrive in style,” he said.
A military veteran, Castantino returned from service overseas to New York shortly before the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, which he called a tragedy. But it didn’t change his feelings about guns; in fact, he said, “I started buying more guns.”
His decision was motivated by the likely passage of gun control legislation in New York.
Also speaking at the rally was former Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, who challenged the crowd to continue the fight for their Second Amendment rights.
“We’re going to carry the fight on,” he said, garnering cheers from the crowd. “We cannot allow our fury to diminish.”
Before speaking, the event’s emcee suggested that Amedore use this opportunity to announce that he will be running again for state Senate. He declined to make any announcement.