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 Governor Cuomo and approved by the majority of state legislators.
Many held signs, including one that equated “Cuomoism “ with “Stalinism” and “Nazism." Another 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.
“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 Senator 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.
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," said 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.”
Governor 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, adding that 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, said 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.”
Governor 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 said it should be repealed altogether.
Watch a video of part of the rally below.