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Anti-gun control signs cover the countryside

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If you have driven, jogged, walked, run or just looked out a window in the north country over the past few months, chances are you have seen a white sign emblazoned with a red circle over the bold words NY SAFE ACT.

The signs, which denounce the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, began popping up in late spring and have made their way across Northern New York and been spotted as far south as Long Island.

Nearly 7,000 of them have been distributed to date, according to the man behind the movement.

Patrick J. Morse, Lowville, is the founder of the North Country Friends of the 2nd Amendment.

His goal and the goal of his organization is to “educate people on what is and is not in the SAFE Act and what they can do to elect representatives that are friendly to the Constitution,” he said.

The organization also is asking that the legislation, which enacted stricter gun control laws, be either repealed or overturned.

Mr. Morse ordered the first batch of signs June 5 and paid for them with his own money — $2,000 of it.

Since then, he has circulated 6,750 signs via a network of 36 distributors throughout the state, including Lynn E. Truesdell, who sells anti-SAFE Act signs, T-shirts and decals at his auto repair business at 231 Mill St. The signs are available for a suggested donation of $5, T-shirts for $15 and decals for $3.

All of the proceeds go to purchasing more signs, renting out gathering halls and printing pamphlets, flyers and “consequence cards,” said Mr. Morse, who has given presentations in many locations in the area.

The “consequence cards” are similar to business cards. Black on both sides, the cards feature seven aspects of the law that state residents may not realize are consequences of the legislation, Mr. Morse said.

It’s actually the much smaller consequence cards that have a bigger impact, according to Mr. Morse; the yard signs just pique people’s interest.

The SAFE Act, which was enacted in January, immediately met with scathing criticism from north country residents and politicians who took issue both with the provisions of the new law, which they felt unfairly restricts their Second Amendment rights, and with the manner in which the law was passed, which they felt did not give lawmakers enough time to properly review and understand it.

In March, the Jefferson County Board of Legislators unanimously passed a resolution opposing the act. It joined 51 other New York counties in doing so, according to nysaferesolutions.com. Upon passage of the resolution, the crowd that packed the second floor of the Historic County Courthouse stood as one and applauded legislators.

Since then, the issue has continued to surface, though with much less fanfare than in the weeks immediately following enactment of the law.

A large part of Mr. Morse’s efforts is aimed at keeping the issue alive in the minds of voters.

“They thought we were going to be upset for a day, a week, a month, and then go away,” Mr. Morse said.

The presentations given by Mr. Morse around the state include the names of all the state assemblymen and women and state senators who voted for and against the law. The presentations also include information about the provisions of the law as well as pending legislation that would further alter the state’s firearms and ammunition regulations.

Also included is information about lawsuits that aim to overturn the law and some basic demographic information about the voting public in New York state.

According to the presentation, only 1.25 million of the state’s 3.5 million gun owners voted in the last gubernatorial election.

Mr. Morse said he hopes that facts like these will shake residents loose from their complacency and persuade them to vote in the next election, and put representatives who voted for the SAFE Act in fear of losing their seats.

“We’re getting big. We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in the next election,” Mr. Morse said.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, was the lone north country representative to vote for the NY SAFE Act.

She stands by her vote and said Thursday night that there were a number of components of the SAFE Act that she felt deserved her support, including closing loopholes in background checks and stiffening penalties for those who make straw purchases or provide “community guns” to criminals.

She also said she supported the inclusion of a law that makes killing a first responder first-degree murder and a provision that allows pistol permit holders to exempt their information from Freedom of Information Law requests.

“I felt they were compelling ... and I supported the bill as a compromise bill,” she said.

Mrs. Russell said she has been a leading voice in addressing some of the shortcomings of the bill, which was introduced by the governor under a message of necessity, which waives the normal legislative review period.

A former Republican, Mr. Morse now identifies with the Conservative Party. But he said his organization is bipartisan.

His presentation even includes a slide reaching out to those “who will always vote Liberal.”

“If you or someone you know are of a liberal philosophy and will always support that agenda but are upset with the constant erosion of all our rights your voice is still very important to us. Those candidates will listen to their supporters far more than to the rest of us,” the slide reads.

Though the signs have made it to locations throughout the state, Mr. Morse said, his group will focus its efforts in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Herkimer, Oswego and Oneida counties.

“It’s not about selling signs,” Mr. Morse said. “It’s about educating people.”

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