Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino vowed Sunday to repeal Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's chief gun control initiative as he spoke to a pro-gun conference in Hauppauge -- one of several visits on his Long Island itinerary.
Astorino, the Westchester County executive, decried Cuomo's SAFE Act, which riled many of the state's Republicans and upstate voters when the State Legislature passed it a month after Adam Lanza, 20, used a semiautomatic assault rifle to kill 26 students, teachers and staff at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
The SAFE Act, the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, requires weapons patterned after military-style assault rifles be registered, bans the sale of new assault-type rifles and requires more background checks.
"The SAFE Act was such a terrible piece of legislation and it was done so badly," said Astorino, who was greeted with a standing ovation by the 500 or so attendees at the Sportsmen's Association for Firearms Education Inc. "As I tell gun owners -- believers in the Second Amendment -- Governor Cuomo took away your rights, take away his job."
Repealing the act would require majority votes in the Democratic-led Assembly and in the Senate. The chambers strongly backed the legislation.
Officials with the Cuomo campaign were not available for comment Sunday night.
Astorino, who also made appearances Sunday at a Hempstead church and at events in Old Bethpage, Bellport and Centereach, stressed the importance of high voter turnout on Long Island. Astorino said Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, as well as upstate, are key to his winning strategy.
"The thing that scares Cuomo more than anything -- Second Amendment rights advocates, gun owners, voting," Astorino said.
Astorino was one of several speakers at the conference, which also heard from James Porter, the president of the National Rifle Association.
Linda Lee Chase, 66, of Riverhead, enthusiastically greeted Astorino after his remarks.
"You're going to do great," Chase told him. Holding an Astorino yard sign passed out at the event, Chase said, "I'm taking it to Riverhead."
Bill Raab, 21, said he backs Astorino because of his gun stance and his plans to cut taxes and bring business opportunities to the state.
"Economically, I'm feeling it," said Raab, of Bay Shore who graduated from Eastern Suffolk BOCES in 2010. "The best job I can find right now is frying chicken."