Thousands protest NY SAFE Act in Albany

Thousands of SAFE Act opponents lobby and rally the Capitol.

More than 5,000 NY SAFE Act opponents are lobbied lawmakers and rallied at the Capitol in Albany against measures they say infringe on their constitutional right to bear arms.

The New York Rifle and Pistol Association (NYRPA), the rally organizer, says busloads of demonstrators from more than a dozen counties around the state arrived Thursday morning. They joined thousands of other SAFE Act opponents on the lawn in front of the Capitol.

The NYRPA described the "5th Annual NYSRPA Lobby Day and Rally" on their website as "a day to lobby the state legislature on gun rights. Call your Assemblyman and State Senator to make an appointment to meet with them in their offices on the 28th. If they refuse show up anyway."

Among the demonstrators was Jody Dates of Red Creek in Cayuga County. She told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "I feel like it's punishing the law abiding citizen." Her father, Ed Dates added: "We don't want to see any of these crimes committed like we've seen in schools. No one wants that, but this isn't the way to go about it. We've got laws on the books and they're not being enforced."

A group of about 300 women held their own separate demonstration on the steps of the Capitol building. "Women for the 2nd Amendment" spokeswoman Nicole Katz said: "Women support the 2nd amendment. It is of equal value to women if not more so than to men. Gun ownership is a great equalizer for women... We are the fastest growing demographic of new gun owners in America."

Thursday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo's office released a transcript of his comments in response to the demonstration.

"On the issue of gun control, it's been a controversial issue for decades. One of the reasons that government hasn't done anything, frankly, is because it's been controversial. I think gun control has been long overdue. We've had some recent, terrible acts of gun violence. Newtown, Conn. Webster, N.Y., right outside of Rochester.

But those were recent. This has been going on for years, and years and years. I've been working on this issue for over 20 years. So yes, it's politically controversial. About 70% of the people in the state support gun control, 30% don't and 30% feel very strongly about it. So that is the nature of the issue.

I'm very proud that the state finally made progress with a comprehensive bill but an intelligent bill. I am a gun owner. This is not about taking anyone's gun. This is not about saying there's no such thing as the second amendment. And I think that's the fear. People think that government is going to come and literally take their guns away. That's not what it's about. But it is a reasonable approach that basically keeps guns out of the hands of criminals and people who are mentally ill. That's what this is. And it bans high capacity assault weapons, which can kill many, many people in a short period of time. So I'm proud of the law, I'm proud of what we did. I believe it will literally save lives, I believe it's long overdue, and to the extent there's controversy on the issue, there has been for decades, and that's to be expected.

Most of the issues of social change require some degree of controversy. And that's why they are problems for as long as they are."

About 500 opponents rallied outside the Capitol two weeks ago, at one point chanting they won't comply. The association has separately filed notice of its intent to file a lawsuit in an attempt to overturn the law.

Among other things, the NY SAFE Act redefines and restricts the ownership of "assault weapons," bans high capacity magazines by limiting them to 7 rounds, requires background checks on the purchase of ammunition, attempts to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and requires 5 year renewals for pistol permits.

Counties across the state are filing resolutions calling for repeal of the gun control laws. So far, 33 of 62 counties have passed resolutions including Oswego, Jefferson, Oneida, Madison, Herkimer, Lewis, Wayne, Yates counties in Central New York.

Other counties with pending resolutions include Onondaga and Chenango counties.

A new website, NY SAFE Resolutions, is tracking these resolutions and displays the status on an easy to read map of the state.

Citizens have gathered around Central New York recently

at town hall meetings


voice their concerns

over the legislation.

The New York State Sheriffâ??s Association

came out with a four page

position paper last month praising the legislation for several points, including better record keeping, more severe penalties for killing emergency first responders, and illegal weapons use. The stateâ??s sheriffs are critical of other provisions including the definition of assault weapons and the enforceability of several points, including recertification of pistol permits and gun registration.

Follow @JimKenyonCNY on Twitter.

(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.)