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SAFE Act draws opposition at forum

More than 200 “citizen patriots” got a call to action to fight the SAFE Act, New York’s gun-control law, Monday night at a TEA New York-sponsored forum.

“It’s you guys who are going to make a difference,” Steve Aldstadt, state president of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, or SCOPE, told the crowd packed into the Shannon Pub in the Town of Tonawanda almost like it was St. Patrick’s Day.

The SAFE Act, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law in mid-January in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut, puts restrictions on guns and ammunition.

It expands the assault weapons ban and requires mental health professionals to report the names of patients they think are a threat to themselves or others and gives the state authority to confiscate any weapons they have.

“People are waking up. People are realizing they really do want to take your gun,” Aldstadt said.

Aldstadt, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard and Iraq War veteran and former congressional candidate David Bellavia were guests of local tea party activist Rus Thompson, who organized the “Un-SAFE Act” forum.

At the beginning of the evening, Thompson had everyone stand up and recite an oath to uphold the Constitution. The text of the Second Amendment was hanging on a banner above the small stage.

“Congratulations everybody. You’re part of the Citizens Patriot Movement,” he said. “We are now called the Protecting Fathers to the Constitution of the United States.”

Howard received warm applause when he was introduced. He is one of four sheriffs in the state who have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the SAFE Act, and he has pledged not to enforce the law because he believes it is unconstitutional.

There are several court challenges to the law, and Aldstadt said SCOPE will soon be joining another lawsuit.

Thompson read questions posed by people on TEA New York’s Facebook page. Several had to do with how to remove Cuomo, who quickly ushered the new law into effect after the Connecticut shooting.

Nothing can be done until the next election to remove the governor from office, he said.

“All we can do is make his life miserable,” he said, noting that there is a rally against the law next Tuesday in Albany.

“I think the governor is more troubled by the attention that we’re giving to this and the facts that we’re drawing out that they’re trying to keep concealed,” Howard said.

The sheriff said he is not using the SAFE Act as a campaign issue. He said he has never called a news conference to outline his position but has responded to media requests.

“What’s happening here doesn’t make sense,” Howard said.

Bellavia said the issue involves not only the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms but also the Fifth Amendment that provides for due process before the taking of life, liberty or property.

“The government is never going to come in and take our guns because we’re not going to let them take our guns,” Bellavia said to cheers.