JOHNSTOWN - Less than a month after New York state enacted controversial restrictions on gun owners, the Fulton County Republican Club's annual Lincoln Day Dinner served as a rallying cry against a Democrat-led law they say overreacts and overreaches.
"The essential Abraham Lincoln understood there is a role for government to play in our lives, but there is a limit to what government can and should do, and he understood what those limits are," said state Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport.
He spoke at Monday's 53rd annual dinner at the Johnstown Moose Family Center. The event honors the ideals of Lincoln.
Thomas King, president of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, speaks at the Fulton County Republican Club’s 53rd
annual Lincoln Day Dinner on Monday at the Johnstown Moose Family Center.
The Leader-Herald/ Bill Pitcher
Butler's sentiments were echoed by a half-dozen Republicans who spoke, including public officials, Thomas King, the president of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, and Bill Pollak, a former Johnstown teacher, mayor, supervisor and school board member who was honored with the Charles Hough Award at the event.
"I read the Second Amendment, and I don't know if all Republicans are supposed to feel this way, but the right [for] people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," Pollak said, drawing applause. "My question is, what's infringement?"
King said the law, which makes certain guns and clips illegal and will track ammunition purchases, is "so complicated, so convoluted," that it will require 98 amendments.
"I've seen 12 different explanations of what you can have and what you can't have," he said. "Not all of them are right. Most of them are wrong."
"The SAFE act is one of the most draconian, abolitionist laws I've ever seen," he added. "It's going to make felons out of lawful citizens who had been lawful and had a piece of legal equipment. That's a travesty and it shouldn't happen in this country."
He said state representatives let Republicans down when they failed to stand up for core values while the legislation was rushed through the Assembly and House before it was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Jan. 15. He said Republicans now need to respond by saying "enough is enough," as well as finding and voting for candidates who will preserve Second-Amendment rights.
"If we don't do something in the next two or three years, it's going to be too late," he said. "Think of your children and grandkids. It isn't the America I grew up in."
King said his association will file a lawsuit against the state, targeting five or six points of the new law. He also said the association is working with noted constitutional attorney Stephen Halbrook to decipher the law and make it easier to understand.
"We're going to give you a summary of what you can do and what you can't do so we can allow our people and the people of New York state to understand what this law is doing for them," King said. "From the preliminary results I've heard, you're not going to like it."
King and Butler will be back in Fulton County at 6:30 p.m. Monday, offering an informational session about the new law at Pine Tree Rifle Club on Johnson Avenue in the town of Johnstown. Another session will be held at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Salisbury Ridgerunners Club on Curtiss Road in Salisbury.
Other speakers included state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, gun show promoter David Petronis of Saratoga County, Fulton County Republican Committee Chairwoman Sue McNeil and Gloversville 4th Ward Supervisor Charles Potter, who is president of the Fulton County Republican Club.
Diane Henderson, who won the Charles Hough Award in 2012, also spoke, introducing Pollak as the 60th recipient of the award, which honors volunteers who support Republican ideals.
Pollak taught Participation in Government Studies at Johnstown High School for 32 years before becoming an example for his students when he was elected to the Fulton County Board of Supervisors. After retirement from school, he served as Johnstown's mayor and as a school board member, where he created the Johnstown School Museum.
"You're honoring people who have been live wires in the community and done good things over the years, and maybe that's me," Pollak said. "I know a lot of the winners. Overall, they're a real plus, and I've been a lifelong registered Republican, so I guess I'm not a bad guy after all."