Rockland gun rights rally takes aim at tough new laws
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Wayne Wagner stood in a crowd of more than 200 pro-gun advocates in New City on Saturday afternoon, holding a sign quoting Thomas Jefferson: "The beauty of the 2nd amendment is it won't be needed until they try to take it."
Wagner, 24, an electrician from Sloatsburg, said he's owned a gun since the day he was legally able to purchase one on his 18th birthday.
"My dad taught me how to shoot," Wagner said. "Hunting, target shooting, anything with firearms, I like."
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The rally in New City was among dozens across the nation Saturday. From White Plains to Albany, hundreds of New Yorkers joined a movement throughout the country to protest stiffer federal gun controls and New York's new, stringent gun law.
Wagner's favorite piece of weaponry is his AR-15, a semiautomatic -- similar to the one used in the Newtown, Conn. school shootings and now classified as an "assault-style" gun -- a gun that will no longer be sold in New York State since Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a controversial piece of gun control legislation into law this past week.
"I have to register it now," Wagner said about his gun. "They're making it so difficult for us. They have background checks on ammunition but it's not going to stop anything. If you want to commit a crime, you'll do it. If you want to shoot up a school, you'll do it. This won't stop anything bad from happening."
Wagner's neighbor, Ryan Kelly, 25, a software engineer, has a cache of guns at his home including an AK-47 -- another type of gun that is now also barred from being sold. He held a sign quoting George Mason: "...to disarm the people -- that was the best and most effective way to enslave them!"
"I support the right to self-defense, I believe people should have access to the weapons they feel are appropriate for themselves," said Kelly, who does not have a permit to carry a weapon but uses his guns to hunt and at gun ranges. "The Second Amendment is not just directed at personal defense. It's a defense we have on a tyrannical government."
The rally, held by the United Sportsmen Association of Rockland outside the Allison-Parris County Office Building on New Hempstead Road, drew the large crowd to denounce the new state law that also reduced the legal number of bullets inside a magazine from 10 to seven.
During the two-hour rally, local political leaders and residents spoke passionately about their views on gun ownership while random shouts of "Freedom!" and "Amen!" came from the crowd.
Rockland County Legis. Frank Sparaco (R-Valley Cottage) and Legis. Douglas Jobson (R-Stony Point) showed their support. Sparaco has been an outspoken critic of the gun law since it passed in the Senate Monday night.
"I ask, what's next? What's next, Mr. Carlucci, Mr. Cuomo? One round per magazine? Maybe we should go to black powder rifles," Sparaco said. "Is that what you're going to come up with next year? BB guns? Spitballs?"
State Sen. David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Orange) voted in support of the gun bill.
"They're a bunch of elitist eggheads like our great Sen. Carlucci," Sparaco said. "A boy who has never served his country, knows absolutely nothing about law enforcement, or has ever really had a real job. He's never traveled the world. He's never seen what tyrannical governments are capable of doing to its citizenry. He doesn't know the difference between a shotgun or a Baretta 9mm. He's completely clueless on these issues. Yet this travesty of a senator that decided within 24 hours he would become such an expert on the issues, that he would strip us all of our rights and force us to hand over our property."
Sparaco went on to slam Carlucci, saying he "followed the orders from his handlers in the city" and did not hold town hall meetings to listen to the opinions of his constituents.
Carlucci declined to comment Saturday.
Several local residents took their turns at the podium. Judy Burns, a concerned citizen, told the crowd she learned to use a .22-caliber when she was a teenager and has always been mostly concerned about how to safely handle a gun.
"I never thought in my life that I would see this country where it is now," Burns said. "I am so afraid of what's going on in this country. We are losing our rights right and left. The government has their hands all over my body because of the health care law. They've got their hands in my pocket because I want to take every freakin' cent that I make and now they want to take my guns away! This is not acceptable!"