By Robert J. McCarthy
ALBANY -- New York's Second Amendment activists are suddenly taking aim at each other on the eve of a giant Tuesday demonstration in Albany against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's tough gun control law.
After the president of the state's biggest firearms organization told the New York Daily News Monday that he would skip a Capitol demonstration that organizers say could draw 8,000 protesters, some fear much of the event's firepower may have been muzzled.
"Let all these other groups go out and do what they want to do, because they don't want to listen anyway," Thomas King, president of the New York Rifle and Pistol Association, told the Daily News. "I just don't want to be a party to anything that may happen."
King also recently told his membership that the rallies are "preaching to the choir" and will never convert those who are "rabidly" anti-gun. He said pro-gun rights advocates must concentrate on "the soccer moms, the guys who say I've never shot a gun but would like to try it and the people worried about their safety."
But that kind of sentiment is not playing well with some of the scheduled "stars" of the Tuesday event, like Buffalo developer Carl P. Paladino, the 2010 Republican candidate for governor. He is slated to speak at the rally, along with Rob Astorino, the expected GOP candidate for governor, and billionaire Donald J. Trump, who also flirted with running for governor this year.
Paladino on Monday characterized King as a "flake," who "should back off" from his recent comments.
"He acts as though he's going to participate and then at the end says he won't go," Paladino said. "I don't think anybody cares if he goes or doesn't go."
The Buffalo developer said despite King's comments, he expects 7,000 to 8,000 gun rights supporters to rally outside the Capitol on Tuesday. He also said he, Astorino and Trump will represent "one big happy family," despite the criticism he has leveled at Astorino regarding what he calls the Westchester County executive's inability to defeat incumbent Democrat Cuomo in November.
"I like Astorino," he said, "but he will have a tough time because of all the money Cuomo has and all the heathens who have filled his campaign.
"That's why we are looking for a wealthy guy who shares our values," he said, adding he believes Trump has still not entirely closed the door on challenging Cuomo this year.
Paladino sid he does not believe the Tuesday rally will be as big as the one that drew about 12,000 protesters to the Capitol last year, but will still be impressive enough to "send a message."
"The message will be to the voters of the State of New York," he said, "that this will be their opportunity to go out and register to vote and get rid of Andrew Cuomo."