New York’s landmark gun control law opened a political fissure that’s still visible upstate.
Polls have shown majority support for the SAFE Act spearheaded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but it is intensely disliked in parts of upstate New York with strong hunting and gun cultures. Anti-SAFE Act signs are a common sight on rural lawns, and anti-SAFE Act rallies are being held this year, featuring full slates of local politicians.
“Another unreasonable government intrusion into our lives for no purpose other than political gain,” said Richard Murray, sipping a morning coffee at a diner an hour west of the Capitol in rural Duanesburg.
“Too much government,” said Al Durfee, sitting near Murray. “You think you’re going to pass all these laws and make everything hunky-dory, and it’s not going to happen.”
Some analysts doubt that the anger in traditional Republican strongholds can move the needle much in a governor’s race in which Cuomo is heavily favored.
A lot of opponents say they’re being underestimated.
“What the polls don’t show is the motivation of the voters,” said Stephen Aldstadt, president of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, which wants the law repealed. “And I think those that say they support the SAFE Act are likely to be very blase about it, but the opposition is very motivated.”
Opponents who see it as an infringement on civil liberties say their message is mainstream enough that resolutions opposing the law were approved by 52 counties — essentially every upstate county except for Albany and Tompkins, home to the university city of Ithaca.
Already, Republican candidate Rob Astorino appears to be using the issue to rally his base by addressing an April rally outside the state Capitol and choosing an outspoken detractor of the law as his running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss.
But it’s a tricky issue for Astorino as well as Cuomo. New York voters support the measure by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, according to a Siena poll. Support in New York City was overwhelming and strong in the suburbs. Upstate is alone in its opposition, which the poll puts at 52 percent.
“It’s not going to affect the election,” Murray said, “because upstate doesn’t count.”