“I think it’s important for you to know that as responsible gun-owners, our hearts break every time there’s a mass shooting.”
That’s the message Sue Makely of Middleburgh shared with Congressman Antonio Delgado and about 40 gun-right activists in an often-contentious meeting hosted by SCOPE Monday at the Middleburgh Rod & Gun Club.
Much of the discussion focused on interpretations of state and federal Red Flag laws; one man in the audience said Democrats aren’t far from Socialists, who aren’t far from Nazis—a charge Congressman Delgado bristled at.
But after more than an hour of give-and-take, Ms. Makely brought the conversation back around to something almost everyone there could agree on.
“It’s an easy thing to say we need more gun control…” she said, but gun-owners--in her case pistol-owners--are afraid they’ll end up on a list “and people will come after us. We’re becoming victims too.”
Setting the tone for the meeting before Congressman Delgado arrived, Chairman Walt Janczak read SCOPE’s mission statement, in part to “protect and expand gun rights for all New Yorkers.”
“No one’s here to disavow the Second Amendment,” Congressman Delgado said; his father-in-law is a member of the NRA and he recognizes gun-owners’ concerns.
“What I’d like to do is find out how we can create lines like we do with all rights…How we can make informed decisions.”
And assumptions, Congressman Delgado agreed, go both ways.
“I think most people can care deeply about kids, their community,” and support gun rights, he said after Ms. Makely spoke.
“People run to labels that aren’t helpful—on both sides of the aisle. We’re going to disagree because we’re human. I hear you. We need to break down the noise and the barriers.”
There wasn’t much support in the crowd for additional gun control laws and Larry Bradt of Carlisle broke in to criticize Democrats in Congress for being too focused on impeaching President Donald Trump to work with Republicans on important issues.
“They’ve wanted to impeach him since day one just because they don’t like him,” Mr. Bradt said.
But in fact, Congressman Delgado said, “we’ve passed hundreds of bills in the House and a few have even seen the light of day,” including his Farm Relief Act—which was signed by the President.
“But you’re right, sir. Both sides do a lot of posturing. I’m doing my part to find common ground…”
“Can I ask a gun question?” Richard Sherman of Schoharie asked to laughter as the tension broke a little and the discussion returned to topic.
“Why is it, when someone commits a crime with a gun, you want to make it difficult for all of us?” he asked.
Several in the crowd challenged Congressman Delgado’s statistic that 90 percent of people support universal background checks.
“How many more background checks do we need?” asked Mr. Janczak.
“Law-abiding people follow the law,” added Larry Cowden of Gilboa. “No amount of laws is going to stop bad behavior. We need to stop the individual.”
As the conversation deteriorated—briefly—Congressman Delgado bristled at the charge that he was lying.
“When you say I’m lying, I respectfully disagree,” he said. “We can have the discussion that my ideas aren’t appropriate or that I don’t have your understanding, but I’m not here to lie to you.
“Where is there room—is there room—or is it a non-starter?”
There is room, Mr. Cowden seemed to suggest, by going after the root cause—behavior—and not the weapon—guns.
“And on that high note…” Congressman Delgado said to more laughter—though the session continued for another 20 minutes or so before he left—late—for a town hall meeting at the New York Power Authority.