Congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley, center, and Massapequa High School...

Congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley, center, and Massapequa High School students criticize Rep. Peter King for skipping a Saturday rally against gun violence, at a Monday news conference. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Rep. Peter King was criticized Monday by political opponents and high school student organizers for skipping an anti-gun violence rally he co-sponsored in order to attend a Mets spring training game.

King (R-Seaford) had planned to attend a Saturday event at Farmingdale State University with Democratic congressional members Reps. Thomas Suozzi of Glen Cove and Kathleen Rice of Garden City. But he said a late change to the congressional voting schedule allowed him to go to a Port St. Lucie, Florida, game Friday with his 90-year-old uncle and 13-year-old grandson, where they got to be on the field.

“For me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime family event and sometimes you have to make those decisions,” King said in a phone interview. He noted he has an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association and has sponsored a number of gun control proposals. He returned to New York on Sunday.

At a news conference Monday outside King’s Massapequa Park office with four high school student organizers, Democratic congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley said King’s pro-gun-control positions amount to “empty rhetoric.”

“Peter King does not show up,” said Grechen Shirley, of Babylon, who is facing Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) in the Democratic primary.

She said she would advocate harder for gun control legislation than King and not back Republican leadership that is opposing the proposed laws.

Justin Dynia, 17, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore who helped organize the Farmingdale rally, said he was surprised King sent a representative.

“It was disappointing to see he didn’t show up himself,” Dynia said at the news conference.

King accused Grechen Shirley of “exploiting the deaths of children” to score political points.

“It’s shameful to be politicizing an issue that’s bipartisan,” he said. “I’m the sponsor of all the legislation they’re looking for.”

The crowd booed at the mention of King’s name on Saturday, before Suozzi asked them to be quiet and a King district representative read a statement.

King has sponsored of a number of pieces of gun legislation, including expanded background checks, an assault rifle ban, bump stock ban and a bill to prevent those on a “no fly” list from being able to purchase weapons.

King said the politically smart move would have been to attend the rally.

“I was missing an opportunity to get votes at the gun rally. Everyone there was coming to support my bills,” he said.

A Suozzi representative declined to comment for this story. Rice ended up attending an anti-gun violence rally in Long Beach instead, according to her spokesman.

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