Remember when you felt like you could make a difference in the world?
As we get older, the pure idealism of our youth gradually fades, leaving so many people cynical, quietly resigned to their fate. Millions of Americans feel powerless as they watch their freedoms gradually erode. It’s as if our future is in somebody else’s hands, and no matter how loudly we yell, nobody in power seems to hear us.
The truth is this:
Your voice DOES matter.
You only have to use it in the right place.
A few weeks ago, we published a post about political activism and how you really can make a difference. Since then, we’ve been working hard to introduce you to some of the awesome grassroots organizations around the country.
The groups you’ll read about on this blog are making huge strides towards freedom, fighting every day for your rights. Our selection process is rigorous, so only the very best are featured on this blog. It’s our mission to help you find a place where your money counts, your voice is heard, and you get more than an embroidered hat in exchange for your membership fee.
On that note, it’s our honor to introduce you to the Shooters Committee on Political Education, an organization that stands right at ground zero in the battle for gun rights – New York. President Stephen Aldstadt answered some of our hardest questions, and we’re proud to share those answers with you. If you’re one of the gun owners still living in New York, visit www.SCOPEny.org to see how you can help SCOPE on the front lines.
1) Who are you?
Stephen Aldstadt – President of S.C.O.P.E. Inc: The Shooters Committee On Political Education – New York State Not-For Profit / 501(c)4
2) What’s your story?
SCOPE is a civil rights organization focused on the protection and preservation of the right of firearms ownership as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The Shooter’s Committee on Political Education was founded in 1965 by a group of firearms owners in western New York. The founding of SCOPE and its subsequent growth were a response to the attacks on the Second Amendment as naysayers called it outmoded in modern times, or claimed it’s not applicable to the rights of individuals. In other words, firearms ownership, much less use, were no longer considered by some to be “politically correct.”
While SCOPE focuses primarily on the political process, it is an issues oriented organization. It does not align itself with any political party nor does it endorse any candidates for elective office. Our function is to counter assaults on the right of firearms ownership. This entails providing legislators and executives with timely and accurate information to support sound decisions.
In a free society, it is inevitable that the needs of the public will come into conflict with the rights of the individual. The SCOPE legislative team reviews all proposed firearms legislation for its impact on the legitimate firearms owner, its economic cost to the state, and its potential for achieving its stated objective. In developing our position on a specific piece of legislation or regulatory proposal, SCOPE goes through an extensive review process. All proposals are examined in light of their relationship to legitimate state interests and their potential for achieving objectives which are substantially related to satisfying those interests.
SCOPE’s purpose is to maintain the right of individuals to own and use firearms for lawful purposes. The Supreme Court, in its landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, clearly upheld this right. We do recognize that we live in a real world where individual rights may conflict, and that the state has a legitimate interest in resolving those conflicts. Any regulation by the state, however, must serve an important governmental objective, and it must be closely related to the achievement of that objective. SCOPE will oppose, with all its resources, any proposal that is not based on sound technical grounds or that infringes on the rights of firearms owners for the purpose of promoting a political philosophy, advancing a social theory, or as an emotional response and is not based on clear Constitutional grounds.
3) What specific actions does this organization take in order to accomplish that stated mission? Are you (or do you partner with) a political action committee?
SCOPE tracks all legislation related to firearms and gun ownership at both the state and local level and prepares detailed position papers. As a non-profit, SCOPE does not endorse any political candidates, but we do track legislators on their record and grade them on their support for the Second Amendment. Candidate Questionnaires are used for new candidates who have no legislative record.
SCOPE has an overarching statewide organization with county level chapters and committees representing fifty-two of New York’s sixty-two counties. This gives us the ability to coordinate statewide action while maintaining a local grassroots structure, and the opportunity build personal relationships with both state and local public servants.
We have a related political action committee – SCOPE-PAC.
SCOPE also has a Legal Defense Fund used to fund litigation in defense of the Second Amendment rights. These efforts are coordinated by Director of Legal Affairs, Paloma Capanna.
Additionally, SCOPE publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, “The Firing Lines,” with a current circulation of 10,000 copies.
4) In 2015, what would you say have been this organizations 3 greatest achievements or successes? Are there any other accomplishments you’d like to mention?
We have continued to build our grassroots structure by added new local chapters and committees in the counties of Suffolk, Putnam, Tioga, Fulton, Cayuga, Cortland, Montgomery, Broome, Chenango, Chemung, Schuyler, Schoharie, Jefferson and Lewis. This has dramatically increased our presence and given our members a greater voice on both the state and local level. Also, we have assembled a group of over 125 organization into a NY Second Amendment Coalition, including sportsmen and conservation organizations, clubs and federations, law enforcement organizations such as the New York State Sheriffs Association, Association of Former Troopers, and Police PBAs. These organizations are joining to file an amicus to the SCOTUS in support of NYSRPA v Cuomo, and challenging the constitutionality of the NY SAFE Act.
In several article 78 lawsuits pursuant to numerous FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) requests, we have been able to force the administration to make many public records available which the Cuomo administration have attempted to keep secret, most notably the numbers of “assault weapons” that have been registered with the state police as required by the NY SAFE Act (New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.) It was finally revealed the compliance with the registration law is less than 5% – clearly an embarrassment for Governor Cuomo’s signature gun control legislation. [The links within this paragraph lead to news coverage of this discovery.]
We are continuing to push for open government with a “Stop the Secrecy” campaign. At latest count, well over 3,500 people have filed FOIL requests regarding the state’s secretive ISARS (Integrated Safe Act Reporting System.)
We also continue to challenge the NY Mental Hygiene Law 9.46 instituted by the NY SAFE Act in court challenges. The act violates the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments, effectively denying citizens of their rights and property without due process.
5) What would you say is the key to your organization’s success?
Our dedicated people, volunteers committed to that cause of liberty: preserving and fighting for our rights.
6) Going into 2016, what specific goals does the organization plan to accomplish? How?
We have recently reorganized our New York City Chapter and plan to continue expanding our grassroots structure with new local chapters planned in Delaware, Oneida, and Herkimer Counties.
We will be holding our third annual Leadership Conference in early February, bringing our assembled leaders from across the state to a 2 day conference of planning, networking, and sharing ideas for the coming year.
We continue to press legislators to repeal all or any part of the NY SAFE Act. Other legislative priorities are extending the exemptions to the SAFE Act enjoyed by police and peace officers to NY licensed armed guards, and a reform of handgun licensing restrictions that prohibit hands-on training prior to the issuance of a license. We plan to continue and expand our work in the courts through the formation of a 501(c)3 charitable foundation, The SCOPE Legal Defense Foundation, which would be better able to raise needed funds through tax deductible contributions.
7) How much are membership fees, and how is that money used? How much of that money pays administrative fees, and what proportion goes to work that directly furthers the cause?
Annual membership starts at $25. There are also sponsor level, multi-year, and life memberships available.
There are two full-time employees and one 1099 contractor who keeps membership records. Attorney’s fees and legal expenses are paid from the Legal Defense Fund, supported by direct contributions. Our budget summary is available for inspection.
With that $25 membership fee, local communities get access to SCOPE materials and support, such as: brochures, applications, extra copies of the Firing Lines, the monthly Grassroots Report, access to the SCOPE CongressPlus email system, legal representation through the state organization, and general logistical and informational support from the main office.
Each chairman annually receives a copy of the NYS Legislative Reference Guide. We are always available to provide graphic support for flyers, signs, raffle tickets etc. We provide the local chapters with a catalog of SCOPE regalia items to use for local chapter/committee fund raising and promotion.
The state organization funds meetings, teleconferences, and an annual Leadership Forum – a two day training and strategy seminar typically held in February. The state organization pays for a subscription to the NYS LRS (Legislative Retrieval System) through which we track all firearm related legislation. We annually produce a set of position papers on proposed or pending legislation. Copies are made available to all legislators and all chairmen and directors.
Local chapters/committees are each listed on the main website with meeting times, locations, and officer contact information. NOTE: If the listed information is incomplete or out of date, please send necessary corrections and update to web-master Jim Nowotny at Jim@SCOPEny.org.
Member dues support travel and meeting expense for speakers attending and presenting at chapter/committee meetings across the state, and for dues and expenses associated with cooperating organizations such as New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council and New York State Conservation Council. Dues also support attendance and participation in meetings and seminars such as the annual National Firearms Law Seminar and the National Gun Rights Policy Conference.
Most import of these functions, I believe, is the direct support we can provide to to local officers and volunteers. We are available here in the office most weekdays starting at 8:00 AM EST. The office phone is 716-941-3286, but if you call 315-27-SCOPE (315-277-2673) it will ring both in the office and on my cell phone. Additional contact information is as follows:
Stephen Aldstadt, President: SAldstadt@SCOPEny.org
Susan Maressa, Administrative Assistant: Admin@SCOPEny.org
8) Besides the overall mission and related action that members naturally expect, how do paying members of this organization benefit from belonging?
Members are kept informed and involved through regular local chapter meetings, as well at social events: dinners, picnics, BBQs. There are associated business membership benefits, such as discounts at Enterprise Car Rental. There is an attorney referral list, as well as frequent public presentations on New York State gun laws, licensing, and use of physical or deadly force. Members can meet and question public officials at Meet the Candidate events.
9) Out of all the similar organizations out there, why should someone join and support this one? What makes this organization different or better than other grassroots efforts?
SCOPE has an extensive grassroots structure with local representation. Although we do have an overall state level organization to coordinate, the real strength of SCOPE is the bottom-up democratic structure. 3/4 of state board of directors is made up of local chapter chairmen, in addition to ten at-large directors. The SCOPE leadership also believes in coalition building and cooperation with other like-minded organizations to work toward common goals, more so than some other organizations. Our primary focus on state level issues addresses the most significant threat to the rights on our members in NY
10) Is there anything else you’d like to say that we didn’t ask?
As a fifty year old gun rights organization in New York State, we have our work cut out for us, but we are in the fight for the long haul. Many tens of thousands have fled New York since the passage of NY SAFE laws. It’s not the only reason people are leaving, but often it has become the straw that broke the camel’s back.
New York State is rated dead last in both personal and economic freedom. With the passage of the SAFE Act in January 2013, we have become Ground Zero for the fight to preserve the right to keep and bear arms in this country. Our view is, if we cannot push back against these extreme gun control measures in New York, if they are allowed to stand, then they will continue to spread across the nation. SCOPE is on the front line, in the trenches, fighting to preserve freedom in America.
If you’d like to support SCOPE in its mission to stand at Ground Zero for gun rights, you can find them online or call (716)-941-3286 to speak to their home office.
Look for more great grassroots organizations to be featured on this blog in the weeks to come, and remember that your voice counts!