Gun owners in upstate New York gathered yesterday to protest Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D.) controversial anti-gun law and shredded SAFE Act registration cards the day they were required to register their weapons.
TEA NY, the organizer of the event, said yesterday’s protest was scheduled to coincide with the April 15 deadline.
"Yesterday was D-Day," Spokesman Rus Thompson said, adding that numerous people contacted him days ago indicating their desire to protest on the 15th.
Thompson said the idea of shredding the registration cards was directed at the lawmakers who are "shredding the Constitution."
The frigid temperatures did not stop several hundred protesters who gathered in Niagara Square outside Republican State Sen. Mark Grisanti’s office. Grisanti voted in favor of the SAFE Act.
Roughly 300 to 350 gun registration forms were shredded, Thompson said.
"It got a little confrontational. They sent out security and tried to get us to move," said Thompson. He said he told the senator’s security to call the police. "The cops drove by and beeped their horns in support of the protesters," Thompson said.
Several off-duty police officers were present at the protest, according to Thompson.
"We think this demonstration was a great symbolic protest. Andrew Cuomo is shredding our Constitution, and those at the protest shredded their gun registration cards," said Stephen Aldstadt, president of the Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE).
Those at the protest held signs that read, "Election Day Headline: Andrew Cuomo You’re Fired." Other signs read, "Repeal SAFE Act," and "Cuomo’s Gotta Go."
Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
A video of the protest showed a peaceful one.
Joe Mesler, president of the Second Amendment Coalition of Western New York, was also at the protest and said, "People were adamant about their feelings and what they are doing," he said, adding the protesters are not the type to get "belligerent."
"We had two garbage bags full of shredded documents," Mesler said.
Opponents of the SAFE Act are vowing to continue to fight the law and hold those in office who voted yea accountable.
"That was the main reason we were outside Grisanti’s office. We’ve gone to numerous events of Grisanti," Mesler said.
The NRA’s affiliate in New York said in an emailed statement that the fight against SAFE is not going away.
"People are still pissed at Cuomo and there are no signs the anger has diminished. The issue is never going away for the governor unless he admits he made a mistake and takes appropriate legislative action. He will never do that," said Jacob J. Rieper, vice president of legislative and political affairs for the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association.
Despite the law’s requirement that gun owners register so-called "assault weapons" by yesterday, indications are that the numbers are low. Some reports indicate 90 percent of gun owners have not registered their weapons in defiance of the law. The Buffalo News reported that the governor’s office indicated it was confidential information.
"I have always said the number of people and guns affected are in the millions. The state police will not release any registration numbers, but I have heard it is either a few hundred or a few thousand," Rieper said. "I expect less than 1 percent compliance with the law."
Mesler said he does not know anyone personally who is registering their weapons.
"I’d be surprised if it gets beyond the single digits," he said. "It’s utterly foolish to register weapons with the government."
Future protests are planned. Aldstadt said SCOPE is cooperating with numerous groups and coordinating future events all over the state.
This upcoming Saturday, Thompson said gun owners will gather at a gun club to take part in the Shot Heard Across the Country. At noon gun owners will shoot a single round at the same time in unity for their Second Amendment rights.