By Mark Scheer
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —
Gun-rights advocates in Niagara County are scheduled to gather in Lockport today to protest New York's passage of the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement, or SAFE Act.
The rally is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m. and will be held at the Niagara County Courthouse building, 175 Hawley St.
Dave Mongielo, an advocate for gun owners' rights and the owner of Mongielo's Auto Specialties on Robinson Road, said he attended a similar rally in Buffalo earlier this year and decided Niagara County needed to get on board the effort to overturn the SAFE Act, which he considers to be a rushed piece of legislation that tramples on residents' Constitutionally protected freedoms.
"If we are free to do what we want in America, why can't we have a weapon to defend ourselves," Mongielo said. "I'm 100 percent behind background checks, but we already have that in New York state. Why did (Gov. Andrew) Cuomo create this bill so quickly? It's wrong. Why didn't they sit down with us and say 'let's talk about it.'"
In January, following a series of mass shootings, including the high-profile shooting deaths of students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Cuomo joined state lawmakers in authorizing the SAFE Act, a wide-ranging gun control bill that places greater restrictions on firearms use and magazine sizes.
Supporters argued that the bill was needed to curtail shootings incidents like the one at Sandy Hook. Critics — many of them legal gun owners — consider the provisions too restrictive and an assault on their right to bear arms as outlined under the Second Amendment. They also were critical of the way the legislation was approved. The act was approved in a matter of days, with virtually no input from the public.
"It was passed too quickly," Mongielo said.
At a similar rally held Jan. 19 in Buffalo, gun-rights enthusiasts gathered in Niagara Square to just say no to New York's SAFE Act. That rally was organized by local Tea Party leader Rus Thompson.
"I was there," said retired Niagara Falls police officer Steven Baum. "We had almost 3,000 there."
Baum, who said he may attend Lockport's rally today, objects to Gov. Coumo's assertion that the SAFE Act "does not affect rifles and shotguns used by traditional hunters."
"I am a hunter and have been since I moved to Western NY from New York City," he said. "During that time I have used an AR-15 platform rifle to hunt both woodchuck and deer in rifle counties."
According to Baum, AR-15 platform rifle is the most popular rifle used in coyote hunting in the whole country.
He complained about Cuomo's "hissy fit" and said, "The facts are that nothing the governor has proposed or passed as SAFE law has any impact on criminal activity."
Mongielo said he's hoping for a similar response and turnout in Niagara County. Those in attendance will be invited to join him and other opponents of the SAFE Act in signing on to a lawsuit that is being filed downstate on the grounds that the legislation is unlawful as it was approved by lawmakers who failed to follow the proper "due process."
Today's rally will precede a meeting of the Niagara County Legislature, during which lawmakers are expected to consider a series of resolutions co-sponsored by Republican lawmakers that question elements of the state's new gun-control legislation. Tonight's legislature meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the county courthouse building.
Bill Wolcott contributed to this story.