A small but dedicated group of gun law reform advocates recently held a strategy session at the Inquiring Mind bookstore in Saugerties.
“Our goal is not to propose legislation, but to support it,” said Martin Keith, who along with his wife, Euphrosyne Bloom, both of West Saugerties, organized and moderated the meeting. The primary item on the agenda was just that: putting aside nuances of reform/control laws in favor of forming a unified front in support of generally “reasonable” mandates. “Obviously there is a diversity of opinions and we have to respect that,” said Keith. “But what we can do most is support the people that are already in a position to make changes.”
“There’s going to be legal challenges; a need for funding and support,” said Bloom. In reference to Governor Cuomo’s control package, she added, “Right now we have the strongest gun laws in the country and we need to protect that. So in a way, New Yorkers have a very important role to play.”
Keith and Bloom are members of the progressive group MoveOn, whose stated mission is to mobilize people across the country “to fight important battles in Congress and help elect candidates who reflect our members’ values.”
Bloom hopes to “parlay this into building up an Ulster County Citizens Against Gun Violence” organization—a tentative title, she notes—“a group that tries to get our voices heard in Ulster County.” However, by the end of the meeting, the territory of interest had expanded beyond the county, to the 19th Congressional District and the entire region.
The meeting focused on concrete acts individuals can take, such as signing petitions, mailing letters and practicing tactics for defusing pro-gun arguments. Bloom and Keith also advocated donating money to organizations like the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “It’s kind of like our NRA,” said Bloom. “We need to be part of a group, too.”
“People don’t always know how to channel their energy into something effective,” said Keith. “We’re hoping to give people some resources and ideas that they can implement in the limited time they have to do something effective.”
At the suggestion of a member of the discussion, Keith pulled up the link to a petition on his laptop and encouraged those in attendance to sign. Some did, others already had.
A packet was handed out that included copies of unsigned letters to Congressman Gibson and Senators Schumer and Gillibrand. Bloom and Keith encouraged those in attendance to sign those letters and mail them in. Bloom said that in politics, as a rule of thumb, every letter received is estimated to represent the interests of 1,000 people.
The letters urge their recipients to support federal gun reform, emphasized the importance of keeping schools safe and noted that the issue will be closely watched by voters in the coming months.
Keith said Gibson is a self-identified “Tea Party” Republican, whose website identified his opposition to gun reform legislation. “It’s important that he be galvanized on this issue as well. He’s in an important position.”
While generally more optimistic about Schumer and Gillibrand, Keith noted that they might face economic pressure in a state that houses large firearms manufacturers like Remington, which provide jobs and tax revenue.
“Don’t only write to representatives,” said Bloom, “but to newspapers—a letter to the editor.”