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Thousands join anti-gun control rally

Gun Rally.jpg
Karen DeWitt/WRVO

A rally against New York’s newly-enacted gun control laws drew one of the largest crowds to the state Capitol in recent decades.

The several thousand mostly white men, many dressed in hunting outfits and carrying American flags,  filled the one square block park outside the Capitol. They expressed their anger against the recently enacted toughest-in-the-nation gun control laws championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and approved by the majority of state legislators.  

Many held signs, including one that equated “Cuomoism" with Stalinism and Nazism. Another sign called the new statute the “Civil Rights Assault Law.” They chanted that they would not obey provisions that will require them to register more types of guns.  

“We will not comply,” they chanted.

National Rifle Association President David Keene aimed straight at Cuomo in his remarks to the crowd.

“Your governor is willing to sacrifice the Constitution, your rights as citizens and the prerogatives of his legislature on the altar of his own ambition,” said Keene. “Because that’s what this is all about.”

“Cuomo must go,” the crowd chanted at various times throughout the rally.

A handful of Republican state Senators who voted against the gun law spoke, including Sen. Mike Nozzolio, who represents a mostly rural region near Rochester.

“We have a constitutional right to bear arms and that’s what this is all about,” Nozzolio told the crowd. “We will not take this erosion of our rights. Together, we will prevail.”

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther of the Hudson Valley, was the lone Democrat to speak. She told the crowd she’s an NRA member and owns a pistol.

New York State Police estimated the crowd at around 5,000, making it one of the largest demonstrations at the Capitol in recent years, but short of the 10,000 that organizers predicted.

James Lytle, of Horseheads, who held a sign saying “with guns we are citizens, without them we are slaves,” says he doesn’t own a gun himself, but came to stick up for the principle of the Second Amendment.

“I believe primarily, the founders wanted the right to carry guns in the constitution to protect ourselves from an unjust government,” Lytle said. “I want my neighbors to have them.”

Cuomo was not at the Capitol. The governor was giving an address about his State of the State message and budget plan in Brooklyn.

One day earlier, the governor said 70 percent of New Yorkers support the new law, but he respects the right of the 30 percent who don’t, to protest. And he says he knows it’s controversial, and says it’s “one of the reasons why society hasn’t done anything about guns and one of the reasons why we’ve lost so many innocent lives.”

Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein, a Democrat who voted for the gun control measure, says he considers it a major accomplishment.

“We should all be proud,” Klein said. “It saves lives, and I’m very confident that we will continue to have it intact.”

Cuomo and lawmakers are planning some minor amendments to the gun law. They inadvertently forgot to exempt police officers from possessing some of the assault weapons. They are also talking about making an exception for movie productions who may use assault rifles when making films in New York.   

Protesters at the rally say it should be repealed altogether.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.