Gun rights advocates from across the North Country attended a large rally in Albany Thursday to protest New York's Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.
Ray Scollin, Bob Brown and Blue Line Sports owner Matt Rothamel, all of Saranac Lake, were among the thousands of people who descended upon the Capitol to call on lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to repeal or amend the state's Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, which sped through the state Legislature and was signed into law last month. The rally was organized by the New York Rifle & Pistol Association and attracted crowds of more than 5,000 people, according to The Associated Press.
Scollin told the Enterprise that a large contingent of Second Amendment supporters from the Tri-Lakes area were at the protest. Many of them met with state Sen. Betty Little and other North Country lawmakers prior to the rally, he said.
Thousands of gun rights advocates protest the state’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act during a rally in Albany on Thursday.
(Photo — Ray Scollin)
"People were chanting, 'Cuomo must go, Cuomo must go,'" Scollin said. "It's like a 1970s-era rally. It's pretty amazing, the number of people here in the street."
Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, was among the many speakers who addressed the crowd outside of the Capitol. Last month, Stec began circulating an online petition to have the SAFE Act repealed. He said he's collected more than 1,500 signatures so far.
"It was a good crowd - we were fortunate with the weather," Stec said. "They were boisterous. ... There were a lot of current elected officials - and not just Republicans. There were Democratic Assembly members also who voted against the bill."
Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Peru, voted against the SAFE Act. She also met with opponents of the law, and she called the turnout for the rally "phenomenal."
In talking to constituents who want to repeal the new gun law, Duprey said she was frank. The Assembly's Democratic majority voted overwhelmingly in favor of the law, and Cuomo has doubled down on his push for more gun control.
"I'm not going to mislead anybody, and that's what I said to them (Thursday) morning," Duprey said. "I don't believe there is any way that this could get repealed in the state Assembly. It was passed by a more than 2-to-1 margin. You're not going to turn that number of votes around. The people from the city and the surrounding areas are fully supportive of the bill."
Duprey said some stand-alone bills have been proposed. One would let companies like Remington, which operates a firearms plant and museum in Illion, continue to manufacture some of the firearms and magazines outlawed under the new law.
"They're a huge employer in this state," Duprey said. "We don't want to lose them. I don't think that should be the intent of a bill."
Stec said regardless of the slim chance of having the SAFE Act repealed, lawmakers who voted against the bill will continue to "fight the good fight." He said the law has emboldened anti-gun lobbyists to push for even stricter measures, including one that would require gun owners to get insurance policies for "willful acts" committed with guns.
"Certainly, there's value in communicating displeasure to the governor," Stec said.
Scollin said he doesn't know where the fight against the SAFE Act will go next.
"There's such a mixture of sadness and anger, it was really very striking down there," he said. "The only thing that they keep saying is that absolutely, no matter what, they're dedicated to fighting this thing to the very end."
NYRPA has filed a notice of intent to sue the state to overturn the law.