By Don Smith and Tom Reynolds
Over the course of fourteen years, from 1775 to 1789, the US had four forms of government: a king, the Continental Congress, the Articles of Confederation and, finally, our Constitution. Each step was an attempt to improve on the previous one. It was a pendulum-like process but it eventually worked.
On a lesser scale, SCOPE has been undergoing the same process. After decades of being a relatively small organization primarily in western NY, it suddenly became a genuinely statewide organization after passage of the SAFE Act in 2013. That growth led to administrative and organizational problems. New leadership was elected to deal with those problems while simultaneously charting a new long term direction that puts more grassroots emphasis on the chapters and committees.
This new emphasis on grassroots’ actions is important because we do our best to work at that level with our locally elected officials. It is important for constituents to be in contact with their legislators on multiple occasions, especially during NY’s legislative session from January to June. SCOPE chapters in the legislator’s home district must open lines of communication which will forge positive and valuable on-going relationships between legislators and SCOPE members. Working through SCOPE will allow common people at the local level to affect the decisions of their representatives. This is a fundamental role for any “grassroots” organization.
Our belief is that putting more emphasis on the chapters and committees will help to invigorate the membership to be more involved, raise SCOPE’s profile, increase membership and make SCOPE more effective. We are seeing signs that this is happening. Last year, we only had six candidates for At Large positions on SCOPE’s board and all were previously involved at the state level. This year we have twelve candidates and half are NOT now involved at the state level. Last year we had one person doing the review of proposed legislation while this year we have three. But there are many other non -board jobs that need doing and we need volunteers from the membership.
Growth and development brings new challenges to be answered. When SCOPE moved from being a small regional to a large statewide organization, it did not adapt its policies and procedures for the changing organizational needs. Officers have a duty to see that members’ dues are used ethically, efficiently and effectively. By -laws and regulations must be followed and not ignored. Officers must be willing to share information openly with the board and the membership; knowledge may be power but that power cannot be hoarded by a few.
These simple directives were not followed over the past few years and problems occurred and administrations changed. We inherited last year’s records that were either incomplete or in complete disarray, which puts an audit of last year in question. However, we are committed to having the first financial audit in SCOPE’s history by ensuring that the current year’s records will allow an audit. Members will know how their dues are being spent. We are also catching up on required government reporting that was not done in the past and is stressing both chapter and state officers. But, it must be done and once completed it will ease future chapter operations. We now have a very active Finance Committee that is putting greater emphasis on protecting SCOPE’s assets and ensuring that these issues never again arise.
The 2A movement has been hampered by the lack of cooperation between organizations. Working together isn’t always easy but having all the gun owners in NY motivated, locally involved and moving in the same direction will produce a force that cannot be ignored. This requires organizations to rise above old issues and recognize that they exist to defend our Constitutional Rights and that goal must neutralize differences that arise. Towards that end, one of the first efforts mutually made was to end the problems between SCOPE and NYS Rifle and Pistol Association and begin working along parallel paths. To that end, we have met success. Both SCOPE and NYSRPA have set aside past differences for the greater good of the 2nd Amendment. SCOPE looks forward to forging new relationships, even if it means overlooking past problems between organizations and individuals in order to defend the 2nd Amendment.
SCOPE is also concerned with the protection of fundamental human rights such as due process, freedom of speech and protection against unreasonable searches and seizures of personal property. Our Articles of Incorporation state that SCOPE is, “…dedicated to the preservation of the United State of America and the Constitution……and particularly Article 2 of the Bill of Rights.” Those opposing the 2nd Amendment are also going after other rights. We must begin to work with our natural allies in the name of protecting all Constitutional Rights. You don’t have to own a gun to be concerned about the erosion of your rights. We must work with “Rights” organizations for a return to what the Constitution originally said and not the one Sotomayer and others wish it had said.
Ronald Reagan defined perfectly that our short term decisions should all still be moving us in our long term direction. No organization operates in a vacuum and current political forces influence our short-term decisions but we must never lose sight of our goals. Extreme anti 2nd Amendment forces like Cuomo, Obama and the mainstream media have dominated the past few years but we may now have an ally in the White House. We must capture this moment by promoting enthusiasm, raising expectations and supporting activism.
Because of the negative political climate we endured, the primary goal of 2A defense organizations has been to counter attacks on the rights of firearms owners. SCOPE was a part of successfully lobbying for the REJECTION of bills sometimes labeled “SAFE Act 2″. Some examples: Safe Storage, Microstamping, Ban of 50 Caliber firearms [including 12 gauge shotguns], Mandatory insurance coverage of $250,000 for gun owners, 18 years old to own a gun, State issued pistol permits, Registration of ALL firearms with $15 fee/gun and annual renewal with $10 fee/gun.
While we won these battles, the enemies will return and the “War On Guns” continues. Although we have not been able to obtain a repeal of the SAFE ACT itself, we continue to remain on the offensive.
All of us in SCOPE need to be laser focused on “what we do”, “how we do it” and “what it costs in time and money” between now and the November 2018 Gubernatorial Election. There are serious issues with which your chapter and state leadership must be engaged. Distractions should not be tolerated. “Cuomo’s Gotta Go” as well as the SAFE Act.