This event actually took place last weekend, but I hadn’t caught wind of the story until one of the participants sent in some news clips of it. Hundreds of gun rights advocates gathered in Upstate New York to send a clear message to Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Second Amendment proponents around the state that they would not be complying with the repressive SAFE Act. And to drive that message home, they brought along a barbecue grill.
Nearly a thousand gun registration forms were turned into ashes Sunday.
The forms are used for people to register with New York State Police firearms that meet the state’s definition of military-style assault weapons. The deadline is April 15. Gun rights advocates gathered at the Saratoga-Wilton Elks Lodge 161 to burn the papers in a symbolic protest.
E.J. Stokes, leader of the Warren County chapter of New York Revolution, said he was participating because he believes in the U.S. Constitution.
“Once the Second (Amendment) falls, the rest will go with it. It’s an unconstitutional law, done in the middle of the night with no input from the public,” he said.
The event was organized by the NY2A Grassroots Coalition. NY2A co-founder Jake Palmateer said the goal is for people not to register their assault weapon as an act of civil disobedience.
“We are opposed to registration because the evidence is clear that registration leads to confiscation,” he said.
He and others hope that so few people will fill out the forms, that the registry portion of the SAFE Act “collapses under its own weight.”
The Examiner provided some interviews with others attending the event and they expressed the same concerns about registration and confiscation.
“We are demonstrating to New York state that we will not be registering our firearms with the state,” said one protester tending the fire. “We refuse to register.”
Lisa Donovan, one of those responsible for the event, said organizers were telling gun owners what their options are relative to the new law, and, she added, “we’re also encouraging them to get more active in the political process so we can vote out the people who voted for the SAFE Act.”
“We’re basically explaining to people once they register, that gun is no longer theirs,” she added. “It’s a matter of time as to when the state will take it … It will be upon their death or when they change the law and decide to confiscate the guns that have been registered.”
“A gun that’s been registered can’t be sold or anything so it really is no longer yours at that point, so there are legal options for not registering,” Donovan said.
This being New York, the protesters are not dreaming up hypothetical future scenarios to worry about. The fact is that, since the passage of the SAFE Act, New York has been in the process of confiscating weapons around the state while staying under the media radar. This was a lesson which David Lewis learned all too well when armed officers showed up at his door one morning with a warrant, announcing that he could either surrender his guns or go to jail. The only reason that the Lewis case even made it into the local news was that they had the wrong guy and a court subsequently ordered his guns returned.
But there have been other, ongoing confiscations involving people who have neither been found guilty nor even accused of any crime. The nature of their “violation” was simply that they sought help from mental health professionals for problems ranging from anxiety to depression. If that sounds like science fiction, you haven’t read the details in the new law.
The NY SAFE Act requires “mental health professionals, in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment, to report if an individual they are treating is likely to engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to him- or herself or others.”
If such a determination is made, “the Division of Criminal Justice Services will determine whether the person possesses a firearms license and, if so, will notify the appropriate local licensing official, who must suspend the license. The person’s firearms will then be removed.”
In that context, it’s not hard to understand why New York gun owners are not keen to fill out registration forms and put their names on some list held by the state government. Those lists already exist and are currently being put to use, with state troopers being dispatched to people’s homes to collect their legally owned weapons even though they have been charged with no crime.
Of course, if you get all of your news from the national media, you won’t hear about this. The silence is deafening.