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Second Amendment activists flock to Ogdensburg Freedom Fighters’ Breakfast

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When the state’s sweeping gun safety law was passed last month, Lawrence I. Kring knew he had to respond, so he planned to travel to Albany later this month as part of a rally organized by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.

What he couldn’t imagine was how many people would want to go with him.

“I started to ask around to see if people wanted to carpool with me,” said Mr. Kring, a retired state Department of Environmental Conservation lieutenant. “Then it looked like I could get enough to fill a van or a bus, so I put it on Facebook, and it just blew up.”

It caught on so much that Mr. Kring and Ogdensburg City Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle held the Freedom Fighter Breakfast, a fundraiser, on Sunday at the city’s Amvets Post 19 to support the cost of renting the buses. They drew more than 100 supporters from around St. Lawrence County.

“I’m really tickled at the turnout. I’m ecstatic,” Mr. Kring said.

The gun control law, called the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, was criticized as too restrictive by all of the breakfast’s attendees, who complained most about confusing language surrounding ammunition sales and the requirement of pistol permit recertification every five years.

Mr. Kring and Mr. Skamperle were eager to show that gun owners aren’t a monolithic group and shouldn’t be painted with a broad brush — and the diners bore out the diversity of opinion within the gun rights lobby.

Some, like George A. Pratt, Morristown, took a libertarian view.

“I am against all forms of gun control,” Mr. Pratt said. “As soon as the gun law was signed into law, our representatives in the Assembly should have moved forward with impeachment. I’ve watched the government take too many things away from too many people.”

Others, like Hollis S. McBath, Lisbon, said they thought some gun control was necessary.

“I am for background checks,” he said. “Owning a gun is a privilege — you have to use it respectfully.”

Nevertheless, the gun legislation was overreach by the Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mr. McBath said.

“There’s only one-tenth of one percent who ever do something wrong with a gun,” he said. “Then they want to make the rest of us suffer for it.”

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, who was on hand to hear her constituents’ concerns, said a legal remedy is more likely than a legislative one.

“Ultimately, the best remedy would be to repeal it, but that would require convincing some of the people who voted for the act to change their votes,” she said. “Right now, there are at least two court cases challenging the law. The courts might overturn it.”

Ms. Ritchie did not say whether she would support additional legislation to fix what many worry is one of the SAFE Act’s flaws, a provision that could criminalize law enforcement officers using magazines with a larger capacity than those allowed for civilians.

“I’m not sure right now,” she said. “Though I support the idea, I believe it sends the message that only law enforcement officials should have high-capacity magazines and not law-abiding citizens. I’ll have to wait and see the details.”

A Siena College poll released last week found that 65 percent of New Yorkers support the new gun law, but that should not deter the event’s attendees, Mr. Kring said.

“People have come out because the law is a violation of the Second Amendment,” he said. “You can’t blame them for being upset over the way the Legislature passed this act behind closed doors in the dark of night.”

Mr. Kring said he favored repealing the law and coming up with compromise legislation that would appease Second Amendment activists and those concerned over recent mass shootings.

“We need to work together for a sensible law that accomplishes what we all want to accomplish,” he said. “No gun owners condone the mass shootings.”

Mr. Skamperle and a fellow Ogdensburg councilor, William D. Hosmer, plan to vote for a resolution opposing the SAFE Act at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“I believe the SAFE Act needs to be repealed,” Mr. Hosmer said. “We should go back to the laws we had in place before; those were sufficient. The focus needs to be on mental health.”

The group will travel to Albany on Feb. 28. St. Lawrence County residents can contact Mr. Kring at kring630@yahoo.com or 323-2107 in the Ogdensburg area or Joel J. LaPierre at jjlapierre29@gmail.com or 486-2909 in Gouverneur. In Jefferson County, interested residents can contact Glen D. Hancock, Adams, who also is arranging to take a bus to the rally, at glennhancock@hotmail.com, 408-7340.

Other busloads are expected from Lowville and Oswego counties.

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