In “Okie From Muskogee,” Merle Haggard, the country music superstar who made the song famous, suggested that freedom-loving Americans wouldn’t be caught burning draft cards on Main Street in an effort to make a political statement. But we suspect that Haggard would appreciate, maybe even join in, the public political burning that occurred in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., over the weekend where piles of gun registration forms went up in smoke.
Gun rights activists organized by the NY2A Grassroots Coalition gathered at a local Elks Lodge Sunday and set alight nearly a thousand gun registration forms. The forms were made necessary by the anti-2nd Amendment New York SAFE Act.
The grass-roots organizers of the gun-registration burning said that the event was designed to encourage New York residents to forgo the registration process as an act of disobedience.
The registration cards, requiring residents to make the New York State Police aware of any “assault” weapons they own, are supposed to be completed and filed with the State by April 15.
But NY2A co-founder Jake Palmateer told the local Post Star that there is a good chance that activism like what unfolded on Sunday could encourage so many people to disobey the portion of the SAFE law requiring registration that it will begin to “collapses under its own weight.”
At present, according to Palmateer, fewer than 3,000 New Yorkers have registered their “assault” weapons with the State police.
The reason people are hesitant to do so, he says, is simple.
“We are opposed to registration because the evidence is clear that registration leads to confiscation,” he said.
While there is no clear number to indicate exactly how many New Yorkers have registered their guns, other estimates are higher than the number provided by Palmateer. Chatter from sources close to the State Police put the estimate of compliant registrants somewhere in the hundreds of thousands, and people involved in the firearms industry say it could be as many as 1.2 million.
Nonetheless, the New York 2nd Amendment advocates responsible for the weekend protest are undeterred in their mission to encourage civil disobedience with regard to the SAFE Act. They’re also poised to use the anti-gun law to create big problems for vulnerable Democrats in the State throughout the 2014 election cycle.
Palmateer told reporters that his organization will be carefully vetting State Assembly and Senate candidates to “make sure we are putting people in who are pro-civil rights.”
“Ultimately, this is a civil rights issue,” he explained.
New York’s Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo, derided gun-rights activists who weren’t on board with his gun-control plan earlier this year, saying during a radio interview: “If they are extreme conservatives, they have no place in the State of New York.”
To the men gathered at the event on Sunday, however, the issue has nothing to do with being liberal, conservative or “extreme” in either ideological direction.
“We are not extremists,” said local councilman Kevin Sisson. “We are simply free men who love our country.”
To Sisson and others in attendance at the protest, the main issue is respect for the U.S. Constitution and the people whose rights it protects.
“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,” said E.J. Stokes, who heads a local chapter of the pro-liberty New York Revolution.
New York’s 2nd Amendment supporters aren’t the first group that has been forced to acts of civil disobedience following the deluge of harsh State-level anti-gun legislation brought on by the emotional distress of highly publicized mass shootings in recent years.
In Connecticut, it was reported last month that as many as 300,000 “military-style assault weapons” remain accounted for, despite a law requiring that gun owners report their possessions to the State.
On Friday, the State’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection sent a letter to owners who had failed to register the items by a Jan. 1, advising them that, facing felony penalties, their now-illegal assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines must be rendered completely inoperable or handed over to police.