The other side in the bitter battle of the state’s most recent gun-control legislation spoke up Monday at a rally in Martin Luther King Park.
About 60 people, many representing such local organizations as the Coalition for Economic Justice, MAD DADS and the Baptist Ministries Conference of Buffalo, gathered around the bust of the slain civil rights leader to voice their support for the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, which was signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Jan. 15.
Local opponents of the SAFE Act have rallied in Niagara Square, and opponents from across the state have gathered in Albany to demand a repeal of the legislation, which, they say, was enacted too hastily and is a violation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
However, the Rev. James Giles, executive director of Back to Basics Ministries, who spoke at Monday’s rally, said opponents have mischaracterized the legislation.
“We want to say to the opponents of this legislation, this is a first step, and quit twisting the issue that has nothing to do with the Second Amendment right to bear arms,” said Giles.
“It has everything to do with trying to institute some policies that are going to help ferret out these assault weapons and keep the guns out of the hands of people that may have mental health issues, that not only don’t know how to use a weapon correctly, but their hearts are not in the right place regarding human life,” he added.
The SAFE Act was passed in the wake of the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children, all younger than 8, and six teachers and administrators were killed.
Locally, Amy Wallace, a wife and a mother of two sons, was inspired to start the Buffalo and Western New York Chapter of Moms Demand Action.
“Sandy Hook changed everything,” Wallace said at Monday’s rally.
“I remember watching the footage on television in disbelief. That day changed things for me and millions of people across the country. It brought the gun-control debate front and center once again. This time, there is no going back,” she added.
Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant expressed her support for reasonable gun-control legislation, but she defended the County Legislature’s decision to vote in favor of asking for a repeal of the SAFE Act.
“We went on record saying that we don’t support the SAFE Act as it was written, because it didn’t include the provision for law enforcement with the magazine clip holding more than [seven] bullets. I believe our law enforcement need to have more ammunition than the criminals out here,” said Grant.
Buffalo Council Member Demone Smith, who represents the Masten District, insisted the legislation will go a long way toward reducing gun violence in communities such as his.
“We finally have a governor who had the guts to stand up and say we’re going to do something about this, and he did,” Smith said.
“One thing we have to do is when people make good decisions on behalf of the community, we’ve got to let them know that we’re with you. Thank you for standing up against the interests that did not want this to happen,” he added.