New York Gun Rights Group Plans Freedompalooza

New York Times – by JESSE McKINLEY

ALBANY — Hoping to find support and money among country music fans, a group of gun rights supporters and other grass-roots organizations in New York have announced a new addition to the summer festival circuit: Freedompalooza.

The concert, planned for Aug. 24 in Altamont, outside Albany, was announced on Wednesday by Assemblyman Bill Nojay, a Pittsford Republican, and Tom King, the president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.  

Mr. King said organizers were planning to hire a yet-to-be-announced roster of big-name country music stars to help raise money for a new nonprofit advocacy group, Freedom Coalition. Its goal is to register voters for the 2014 elections who believe in “economic and individual freedoms,” Mr. Nojay said.

The organizers are unhappy about a measure the Legislature passed in January, with support from Democrats and Republicans, that imposed new restrictions on the ownership of assault weapons and the size of gun magazines. They said they hoped to energize potential voters who would support candidates more sympathetic to gun rights and eager to lower taxes.

“People in upstate New York need to have their freedoms reinforced,” Mr. King said at a news conference here, adding that there were a “whole spectrum of constitutional rights being infringed on.”

And apparently sung about. Country music is often strongly patriotic, and initial glimpses of Freedompalooza seem to be so as well: A banner promoting the event featured an American flag, an image of the Constitution and the tag line “Our First Shot at Liberty.”

The event will be overseen by David Sieling, a promoter and self-described constitutionalist based in Rochester, who said he had never put together an outdoor show like this.

“I usually do indoors,” Mr. Sieling said.

Local gun rights supporters are not the first to seize upon the name, Freedompalooza — for example, an identically named event was held last week in Bucks County, Pa., and advertised as “a traveling freedom festival,” devoted to “influential patriot speakers on Freedom/Truth/Conspiracies.”

The Altamont event is casting a wide net for support, and several supporters spoke on Wednesday, including the Shooters Committee on Political Education, a Rochester-area Tea Party group and the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a public policy group based in Washington that is made up of Christians and Republicans.

“The government is proving that it’s not our friend anymore,” Stephen J. Aldstadt, of the Shooters Committee, said.

Mr. Sieling, who says he once volunteered for Carl P. Paladino, the 2010 Republican candidate for governor, said he hoped get major Nashville performers to upstate New York, and to announce several of them by Friday. Tickets, at $35 each, went on sale on Wednesday, and Mr. Sieling said his goal was to get as many as 15,000 people to attend.

Assemblyman Nojay said the new group’s mission would be nonpartisan, and would be a success if “elections are influenced” by new voters. As for the concert itself, he had no comment on whether he liked country music, noting that he was more of a Led Zeppelin fan (his ringtone is “Kashmir,” one of the group’s hits).

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