Community outcry produces quick results after leading gun rights group is told to cease using pro-Second Amendment material at New York county fairgrounds.
“Officials at the Erie County Fair said unless our signs pertain to hunting, pro-Second Amendment literature is off-limits for being too political and too controversial,” said Stephen J. Aldstadt, president of Shooters Committee on Political Education. SCOPE was founded in 1965 by a group of gun owners in western New York whose focus is the protection and preservation of the right to keep and bear arms.
SCOPE has purchased a display table at the annual county fair for the past 25 years, he said. “This has never been an issue before.” The Erie County Agricultural Society which is a private not-for-profit corporation produces the fair each year.
The day before they opened last week, SCOPE members were setting up their table and fair officials demanded they remove their signs and bumper stickers, he said. “I was flabbergasted; we are a non-profit organization with a 5500 statewide membership, requesting donations for those items are how we raise funds.”
Failure to comply with the policies and procedures of ECAG may result in a fine or in a failure to renew any future licensing, he said. “We removed the material from the fairgrounds.”
“SCOPE has distributed signs and stickers at other county fairs, including Wyoming, Orleans, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties without any other official complaining,” said Aldstadt.
SCOPE lawn signs read: “Repeal the S.A.F.E. Act Defend your Rights” (cost $19.99)
SCOPE car-bumper stickers read: “What part of “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED” don’t you understand?” “Protect our Constitution IMPEACH CUOMO” and “Second Amendment in not about duck hunting.” (cost $2.00 each)
The state legislature passed and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act on Jan. 15. The SAFE Act has been heavily criticized by gun owners since its rush passage.
“County legislators support repeal, they must be controversial too,” said Aldstadt.
In a formal resolution and in a bi-partisan vote of 7 to 4, Erie County lawmakers concluded (in part) that certain aspects of the SAFE Act appear to be knee-jerk reactions made without the benefit of appropriate contemplation at best, or, at worst, disingenuous fee grabs cloaked as security measures.
“Initially I think we were targeted for being anti-SAFE Act, but ECAS has since backtracked from its position,” he said.
Via social networks, phone calls, and email blasts, he said getting the word out to the public and media forced ECAS into capitulating. “While I was on the air with a local radio program the next morning to discuss the story, a representative from ECAS called in to say their group was pro-gun.”
ECAS said for safety reasons it is their policy that no person or group be permitted to distribute bumper stickers of any kind at the fairgrounds, he said. “The end result is that we can display the lawn signs, but not the bumper stickers.”
Aldstadt said SCOPE sold over 10,000 signs in the last two months and they just ordered 10,000 more. “We plan on getting our signs everywhere.”
SCOPE is preparing a lawsuit against New York State for violating the U.S. and New York State Constitutions in enacting the SAFE Act, he said. “We will be filing a complaint in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York, shortly.”
“With 3200-plus protesters, Aldstadt lit-up the crowd at Niagara Square when he spoke in opposition to the SAFE Act at the second largest rally in Buffalo history on Jan.19,” said John Rus Thompson, army veteran and founder of TEA New York, a grassroots organization whose mission is to actively promote efficient and acceptable government reform.
SCOPE is good at educating the people and the lawmakers about gun rights, he said. “It is normal routine for Albany lawmakers to receive input from SCOPE before a gun law is considered.”
Not this time around, he said. “The original bill was hastily rushed into law with zero impact from SCOPE or any other experts.”
Gun rights are important to citizens in western New York, said the SCOPE member and gun owner for close to 40 years. “The SAFE Act does not pass constitutional muster and is extremely unpopular in this area.”
SCOPE’s media blitz about the story encouraged people into action, said Thompson. “Those who contacted ECAS to demand answers put pressure on them to backtrack from their anti-Second Amendment position.”
“This is grassroots activism at its finest,” he said