JOHNSTOWN - Approximately 150 voices yelled "God bless America" before simultaneously firing their rifles at noon Saturday at the Pine Tree Rifle Club.
The club hosted an anti-SAFE Act rally for the one-year anniversary of the passing of the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of N.Y.
The state-approved measure bans the in-state acquisition of assault rifles and only allows magazines containing seven rounds or fewer to be sold in the state. However, a federal judge last month threw out the part of the law that allowed no more than seven rounds in a 10-round clip.
State Assemblyman Marc Butler, R-Newport, left, delivers a speech at the Pine Tree Rifle Club on Saturday for an anti-SAFE Act rally as Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey listens.
The Leader-Herald/Casey Croucher
At noon, activists gathered at the shooting range to fire a symbolic round at a SAFE Act target. Similar protests occurred at other places in the region and state Saturday.
State Assemblyman Marc W. Butler, R-Newport, said in a speech the symbolic shot was similar to the opening shot of the American Revolution.
"I'm sure you all know that the 'shot heard around the world' harkens back to the opening shot of the American Revolution when a group of local militiamen stood up to a force of British soldiers at Lexington and Concord," Butler said. "As you know, British had marched out to confiscate weapons and ammunition from those early patriots. That single shot set many events in motion."
Butler compared Saturday's activists to that first shot, saying they're defiant and will stand their ground.
"In today's culture, it takes a different kind of courage to stand apart and stand up for your beliefs," he said. "But in more than one way today, you echoed that first shot heard around the world."
Butler said after his speech that not only does he oppose the act because he says it restricts people's Second Amendment rights, but also because his district is home to the Remington Arms plant in Ilion.
"Economically, this act hurts my district," he said. "It shouldn't be allowed that today's officials can question and take away what our founding fathers gave us: the right to bear arms."
Fulton County Sheriff Tom Lorey also attended Saturday's rally. Lorey told the crowd he doesn't believe in the SAFE Act and will not honor it.
"I carry with me every day a pocket version of the U.S. Constitution," Lorey said. "I swore to uphold [the Constitution] and I will until the day I die, and I will not be going back on my word. I will not be enforcing any part of the SAFE Act until it goes through the courts and is finally decided. I am very sure in my heart of hearts that it's going to be shut down when it gets as far as it needs to go ... If you've got a 10-round magazine, nobody from [the Fulton County Sheriff's Office] is ever going to give you any grief about it."
Michael Shover, mayor of Hagaman, said he believes the act is targeting the wrong people.
"Criminals will always get guns somehow," Shover said. "There are a couple hundred people here today, and not one person was hurt because of guns. The SAFE Act is only hurting the law-abiding citizens."
Butler closed his speech encouraging the crowd to continue fighting for the right to bear arms.
"The first shot is important and memorable and historic," Butler said. "But it's the last shot that tells the story, and your story continues to be written."
Casey Croucher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.