More than 150 people gathered in front of the Rockland County Legislature building Saturday afternoon for a rally in which they proudly celebrated their gun ownership and spoke of their disappointment with recent laws relating to gun safety.
The event was organized by the United Sportsmen Association of Rockland, along with the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association. The crowd was energetic throughout the roughly 90-minute rally. After the national anthem was played, one man yelled out “freedom” a few times. Plenty of other items discussed drew raucous applause and yelling out from the crowd, as well.
Many who spoke Saturday brought up The Journal News’ gun map, which was taken down the night before after remaining online for 27 days. Stan Pascoo, president of the United Sportsmen Association of Rockland, said since people seemed so interested in who owns a gun, he would tell them.
“We are your neighbors, your friends, your relatives,” he said. “We are the people who protect you. We are the people who fight the fires, the people who build and fix your homes, the people who prepare your taxes, repair your cars, your doctors, lawyers and, yes, even the teachers, the people who coach your kids, who help you in the stores that you shop in. We are the people that you interact with everyday of your life.”
Pascoo spoke out against the recently passed NY SAFE Act, which was passed to strengthen the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He is also the Rockland master instructor for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for firearms and archery, and said he’s trained thousands of students on how to properly and safely use firearms. Pascoo said the laws passed won’t do anything to stop criminals from using guns, and the laws only affect legal gun owners. He also called them “Draconian.”
“Unlike many of the politicians who voted on a bill that they are totally clueless about, I do know something about the subject,” he said. “I actually know the difference between a firearm magazine and say, Newsweek or Playboy. I know the difference between an assault weapon, whatever that is, and a shaker of salt I use in a restaurant.”
The harshest words at the event came from Legislator Frank Sparaco, who first spoke about how recent events have made legal gun owners out to be bad people. He said legal gun owners shouldn’t have anything to be ashamed of, and flipped around a famous World War II quote commonly attributed to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.
“I’m proud to live in a country where behind every blade of grass is a freedom-loving patriot with a rifle,” he said. “Guess what? The world is a safer place because of people like us. The world is a better place because of people like us. Without people like us, and the second amendment, the other amendments and freedoms that come with them wouldn’t be possible. One amendment is as important as the next. We cannot just pick and choose from day to day which part of the Constitution we want to respect.”
Sparaco then turned his attention to the recent gun laws and the elected officials who passed them, especially Gov. Andrew Cuomo and State Sen. David Carlucci.
“These are unalienable rights that no majority has the right to deprive us of,” he said. “The question is, why are they so afraid of us? That’s what’s very concerning to me. Why would our own representatives fear us so much to revoke our liberty and try to confiscate our property? I think I have the answer: it’s because they’re a bunch of elitist eggheads, like our great Senator Carlucci.”
Sparaco pointed to Carlucci's age, calling him a “boy” and accusing the senator of not knowing how law enforcement works or having seen what a tyrannical government “is capable of doing to its citizenry.” He added that elected officials are supposed to represent the people and said Carlucci didn’t hold a town hall or consult people in the community on their thoughts on the law.
Fellow Legislator Doug Jobson was also at the rally, and said legal gun owners, such as those in the United Sportsmen Association of Rockland, aren’t the problem. He said the laws don’t do anything to disarm those who have guns illegally, and called it an “agenda-driven issue.”
There were many other speakers at the event, including Conservative Party Executive Committee member Paul Murray, who said there should be a list of people with mental illnesses that is used for background checks when people apply for gun licenses.
The need for further education and action on mental illness was brought up a few times. Judy Burns said it’s important to remember that not all people with mental illnesses are harmful, though. She said it’s easy to scapegoat people, whether it’s those with mental illnesses or legal gun owners, for issues, but that the government needs to treat people like people instead of looking where to shift blame.
One speaker also mentioned that the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association plans on taking legal action against the recent laws.