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In concert for Newtown, gun debate remains backstage


Days after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into legislation the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, supporters and objectors united for the Newtown Memorial Fund benefit concert Sunday.

“We’re trying to get away from all that,” Brenda L. Parker said of the gun debate. Ms. Parker is the former president of the North Side Improvement League.

The benefit was organized by Upstate Musicians and hosted at the league, 633 Mill St., Watertown. Proceeds will be donated to the Newtown Memorial Fund. The nonprofit organization aims to assist in current and long-term needs of the Newtown community following the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in which 20 children and six adults were killed.

Tuesday, close to a month after the incident, the NY SAFE Act was signed into law. The law bans assault weapons — rifles, pistols and shotguns — and high-capacity magazines. It also imposes harsher penalties for illegal gun use and requires background checks for all gun sales.

Several attendees at the concert, which ran from noon to 10 p.m., were critical of the new state law.

“I think they were a little fast on the action,” said Bruce A. Dewey, Potsdam.

Mr. Dewey is not a gun owner, but he agreed that people should have the right to bear arms and said overall he is not in favor of the new legislation.

“I’m an ex-hunter,” said James P. Finnerty of Watertown. “There’s no reason for anyone to have an assault rifle. Firearms for legitimate sporting purposes should be allowed.”

“I’m opposed; it’s just as simple as that,” said rifle owner Dale A. Blanding, Watertown.

“It’s not the fault of the gun; it’s the fault of the people who own guns,” said Michael D. Aubin of Natural Bridge.

“If they’re insane, they’re not going to care” about laws, said 15-year-old Benjamin D. Ruppel of Clayton. “Any gun they see, they’ll take it and use it.”

Lloyd J. Schell of Rutland went as far as to say that the new gun laws would hurt innocent people more than help them.

“No matter what you do, it’s no different than drug laws. ... If a criminal wants it bad enough, they’re going to find it,” he said.

Several others declined to comment, citing their lack of knowledge on the topic or the controversy surrounding it.

For many concertgoers Sunday, the issue wasn’t gun control, but helping a grieving community.

Benjamin’s father, Russ Ruppel, seemed bewildered that anyone would put politics first. “I don’t think they’re here because of the gun laws. They’re here to support the benefit,” he said.

To learn more about the NY SAFE Act, visit To learn about the Newtown Memorial Fund, visit

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