In just over a year since they were enacted, New York's tough gun control laws have stirred a storm of controversy. But the NY Safe Act has also had the effect, of spiking the number of members in the group most staunchly opposed to it.
ALBANY, NY - The New York State Chapter of the National Rifle Association (NRA) claims its membership has risen from 22,000 to 41,000 in the year or so since New York lawmakers hastily passed a set of tough new gun control laws known as NYSafe
In January of 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo used his executive powers to get the bill passedas a "Message of Necessity", thereby skirting the constitutionally required three day transparency period before bills can be voted on in New York.
"Obviously, the SAFE Act just helped tremendously to increase our membership, " said Tom King, President of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, which is the NY state affiliate of the NRA.
"However, the quickness with which it happened absolutely floored me," King told WGRZ-TV in a telephone interview from his office in Albany.
It also means New York's NRA chapter has now surpassed Texas and California to become the largest in the nation.
"That says to me that the people of New York State and the gun owners of New York State, are fed up....they're worried about their second amendment rights and they're looking for something or someone or an organization to help defend them," King said.
But King also confirms the group will change its strategy this year, and plans to no longer stage rallies like the one which drew 12,000 protesters to the state capitol last February.
"I'm not saying we're not going to support the rallies, I'm saying that we are not going to participate," he said.
For one thing, King says rallies are expensive. For another, his group's leadership doesn't view them, at this point, as being the most effective means for change.
"If you think about who comes to the rallies it's the choir…and while it's good to preach to the choir, we really need to move on to bigger things."
Translation: They already know whose support they will always have, and whose support they will never get. Thus, like any effective political organization, they will take aim at the middle instead.
"Now it is time to go out and speak those people who are not part of the choir..the people who may not even be gun owners but who believe in protecting the second amendment, and move them to our side of the line," said King
"We are now going to spend our time, money, and efforts on registering people to vote, and getting them out to vote….and if I were a state legislator up for election this year, I'd be pretty concerned about that."
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 on Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Terry Belke. Follow Dave on Twitter:@DaveMcKinley2