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Rod, Gun & Game Outdoor Column: Rally draws 15,000 against SAFE Act

Amidst hundreds of informative posters and signs, over 15,000 attended a peaceful rally to voice their views regarding the NY Safe Act last week in Albany. (Photo by Forrest Fisher)
Thousands of gun rights activists travelled to Albany last Thursday at a rally to send the message to legislators that the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY Safe Act) does not meet with their approval and understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment.

The opinion of many was further defined in conversation where attendees said that while they have always been law-abiding citizens of their country, New York State just made many of them fell like instant criminals.

Attendees expressed that many would be faced with giving up their long-loved firearms, while real criminals who don’t care if they are legal or not, would be left to keep their firearms illegally and to potentially use them to commit crime. Many of them felt they would be surrendering their firearms and only means of protection and were deeply upset about the law.

I was reminded by one of the attendees that Theodore Roosevelt said about a century ago that “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by your president or any other public official.” They were referring to NY’s governor and the president. After understanding the direction of current gun control efforts, most agreed that Roosevelt was incredibly prophetic.

I began to realize how strong the public reaction to this legislation is from law abiding firearm owners. Various organized groups from Erie County and from many areas all across the state, travelled to the New York State capitol and the Legislative Office Building in Albany, all headed for the peaceful outdoor rally in West Capitol Park, an area locally known as “The Well.”

The Erie County Federation of Sportsmen organized a six-bus group that departed from Eastern Hills Mall at 4:30 a.m. News media representatives from Channel 2 and 4, radio stations and other news services were busy conducting interviews with local citizen folks, organizer Rich Davenport, and Erie County Federation President Chuck Godfrey.

The interest for the bus trip was so high that it was hard to find two seats together at 4 a.m. Almost all of the 325 folks that made reservations to go were there way ahead of time. This alone caused me to wonder a bit about the public concern regarding the NY Safe Act.

En route to Albany, passengers from various parts of Western New York tdressed in colorful jackets with flags, patriotic colors and business clothes, shared many lines of thought. Surprisingly, I found two humble folks who did not even own a firearm, but were upset about the manner in which the new law was passed, at the midnight hour as it was rushed through legislative approval.

On the other five buses, I surveyed others and found that 13 people in the group did not even own a firearm. Each was lamenting the rapid approval dealt by the legislation and felt they had to do something to lend their attention to their birthrights as free Americans. Their position is very powerful. Folks on board varied from ages 22 to 85, but many expressed a similar opinion.

Once the buses arrived in Albany, long security lines to enter the LOB to visit legislators tested the patience of attendees. The waiting line was 300 yards long and 20 people deep. All were funneled into a single security scan machine, similar to the TSA airport scanning process. Each row of persons was about one-yard wide (20 deep), that would be about 6,000 people waiting to get in. New York State Police unofficially reported 187 buses were on site.

At “The Well,” the spotlight location for the rally, is a park-like area with leafless hardwood trees, cold concrete sidewalks and ankle deep mud. All of it was contained within a physical area of 200 feet by 400 feet, with the Alfred E. Smith Office Building on one end and the New York State Capitol Building on the other end, and the LOB on the south side of the Park. Multiple speakers provided a formal, but emotional, agenda via an amplified sound system.

The 80,000 square feet of space at “The Well” was about 70 percent occupied; at about eight square feet per person (very conservative); that’s another 7,000 people in attendance. Add that the adjacent walkways on both sides of the park and steps into the capitol building were also occupied and the long security line, attendance was 15,000 to 18,000 via conservative mathematical estimate.

That would make this rally in the middle of a work week in the month of coldest winter weather of February, the biggest rally that Albany has ever hosted. Attendees declared, “Wait until summer!” A legislative meeting on the day of the rally removed many legislators from their LOB offices and attendees were frustrated that they were unable to express their views directly to their representatives.

While visiting Senator Tim Kennedy’s offices to discuss their “yes” vote in support of the NY Safe Act, Kennedy administrative assistants shared that Governor Andrew Cuomo was attending a New York City meeting during the rally hours. Many attending the rally expressed that they felt there was lack of proper representation for upstate folks from the rest of the state.

I tagged along with a group that visited Senator Kennedy’s office for an 11:30 a.m. appointment. The group included two members from the East Aurora American Legion and Son’s of Legion, three members from Niagara County Shooters Committee on Political Education, one member from Finger Lakes SCOPE and three members from the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen. Several were U.S. military veterans that included Vietnam to Afghanistan eras.

This group shared many viewpoints, but mentioned that Senator Kennedy had verbally stated in a recent meeting with them he would never support an anti-gun bill, but now the record shows that he did. Unabashed questions were directed in this regard.

The group was very well behaved, but after 30 minutes of discussion, the kind-hearted assistant to Kennedy was a bit grimaced in appearance and admitted, WNY is in need of economic assistance — that assistance needs to come from Albany and that sometimes it is not possible to support all of the interests of all the constituents. The group was not sure if that meant that the second amendment U.S. Constitutional rights were traded for local economic support?

At the office of Senator Mark Grisanti, another local legislator who said he would never support an anti-gun bill but did, was there to address questions. After 20 minutes, he verbally admitted that he may have made a mistake in supporting the legislation of the NY Safe Act. While speaking to Rich Davenport, chants of “U-S-A” from the rally below became louder and louder and could easily be heard despite the ninth floor office location in the LOB.

Eighty-five percent of the voting majority in the NYS Assembly and Senate is represented by New York City. Learning this point and thinking about this and much other legislation regarding conservation and the outdoors, I have lost sleep for more than one night since this rally. All of the legislators admitted — we visited six in total, they had never seen or heard any other peaceful rally in their Albany tenure that was as widely attended or as loud as this event.

Judging by the facial and verbal expressions, and confident discussion from attendees at the rally, they felt that they were sending the right message expressing their frustration regarding the NY Safe Act. Their common expression was, “I hope the governor can hear this!” Of course, he was in New York City.

Steelies down in Lake Erie

The fourth tributary survey to measure fishing effort, catch, harvest, angler demographics and opinions for Lake Erie’s tributary steelhead fishery accumulated 1,779 interviews from eight stocked tributaries between September 2011 through May 2012. Overall trout and salmon catch rates averaged 0.35 fish/hour, which was a 42 percent decline from the previous survey. The large majority (97 percent) of the Lake Erie tributary catch was comprised of steelhead. The recently prepared angler survey report is available on the Lake Erie Reports page of DEC’s website.

Outdoors Calendar

March 7-10: WNY Sport & Travel Show, Erie County Fair Grounds, Hamburg, Thur./Fri. noon-9 pm/Sat. 10 am-9 pm/Sun 10 am-5 pm, for information visit

March 10: NYS Canada Goose season end (southern zone).

March 15: NYS Northern Pike, Pickerel, Tiger Musky, Walleye seasons end.

March 19: Annual State of Lake Ontario public meetings in Niagara County, 6:30-9 pm. Cornell Cooperative Extension Building, 4487 Lake Avenue, Lockport, presentations by DEC, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish/Wildlife Service and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, see more online at

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