Signs, costumes and even chicken manure have been features of protests in the past.
But some believe this Saturday’s grass-roots demonstration against the state’s gun control laws will mark the first time guns will be used for a collective expression of protest.
Protesters are planning to fire a shot at noon to literally “sound off” on their opposition to the state’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act — the controversial SAFE Act rushed into law a year ago. SAFE ACT opponents are encouraging others to find a safe and legal place out in the woods or on their property to join in.
“They basically pushed us to this point,” said Mike Sheedy, president of the Woodlawn Sportsmen’s Club in Guilderland, where as many as 40 people are expected Saturday.
Enacted by the state Legislature late at night last January, the SAFE Act rendered numerous legally owned guns, such as assault rifles, illegal while requiring others to be registered.
It also limits the number of bullets a gun’s magazine can carry and adds — effective this month — the requirement of a background check for anyone who buys ammunition. The sale of ammunition will be logged in a new database, once it’s operational, according to an open letter issued by State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico.
Since it was passed last January, the law boosted more than 1,000 gun possession charges from misdemeanors to felonies in New York City, The Associated Press has reported.
And 59 people were charged with misdemeanors for having large-capacity magazines or loading more than seven bullets in a magazine, the AP reported last month.
Residents have made regular trips to Albany to voice their opposition and organizers of Saturday’s event hope the sound will resonate with lawmakers.
Sheedy said he believes the SAFE Act has actually made gun ownership less safe in terms of some youths’ first experience.
The Woodlawn Sportsmen’s Club offers hunter education courses. It had been one of the first places new hunters were able to get the feel of firing a gun in a controlled environment.
Sheedy said that process has ended because the SAFE Act disallows lending a gun, so some newly educated hunters leave the hunter education course without ever firing a gun.
“This has gone so far that we will no longer hold live fire in hunter education courses,” Sheedy said.
He said the upcoming database of ammunition buyers is another step toward continued gun control.
“Basically, it’s been one bite at a time, and when they get done we’ll have no apple,” Sheedy said.
Neighbors in the vicinity of the Woodlawn club don’t typically hear gunfire on Saturdays during the winter, Sheedy said.
Guns will be fired during a similar event planned on an “invitation only” basis at the Middleburgh Rod & Gun Club.
Dozens are expected, said Joe Kopacz, club president.
The club is conducting an event he described as “at a very professional level,” but Kopacz said he’s hearing many others will be taking part, either on private land or in other legal shooting areas.
“I am getting feedback that there are private citizens that are indeed going to be participating,” he said.
He said the synchronous discharge of weapons, possibly throughout the state, should send an easy-to-hear message to lawmakers.
“It’ll definitely wake ’em up a little bit as to the fact that people are not giving up on this,” Kopacz said. “Law-abiding citizens who own guns feel that other venues have not worked as well as they thought. Perhaps this will send a message.”
Carlisle Supervisor Larry Bradt said he’ll be participating in the event at the Middleburgh Rod & Gun Club.
“It shows our displeasure with the SAFE Act. We haven’t forgotten about it and we will continue to lobby to have that law repealed. We will do everything in our power to see that through,” he said.
Not everyone will be invited to the Middleburgh event and Bradt is encouraging others to find legal ways to join in, whether it be on private land or in a state forest where hunting and shooting is allowed.
Bradt said the cost of ammunition has “skyrocketed” since the state enacted the SAFE Act, a factor he sees as another means by which government is restricting people’s right to bear arms.
“The people that want to continue to take our rights away, they will not stop. They will continue to price us out of ammunition,” he said.
The SAFE Act continues to cause controversy and court action, with the most recent taking place in federal court.
A federal judge last week upheld the main provisions of the SAFE Act but called the limit of seven bullets in 10-shot magazines arbitrary, The Associated Press reported.