A forum aiming to advance “gun sense” will take place on Thursday, Sept. 27, at the Great Neck Library on the same night as a fundraiser for the NRA Foundation at the Inn at New Hyde Park.
The forum will feature panelists from local communities affected by gun violence.
The forum is among many responses – ranging from Moms Demand Action planning protests at the inn to the Nassau County Democratic Committee canceling a planned fundraiser there – to the Nassau County Friends of the NRA hosting a fundraiser for the NRA Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the National Rifle Association.
Among the items at the NRA event being auctioned and raffled off are a .410 gauge lever action shotgun, a Colt Cobra .38 special revolver, precision rifles and other NRA gear, according to the event flier.
Net proceeds will go toward shooting sports programs in local communities, the flier also notes.
Alfred Vacchiano, chairman of the Nassau County Friends of NRA, said that as a group “working for true gun safety education and training,” they “fail to understand why anyone would work against the Friends of NRA program.”
“The inflammatory rhetoric and exaggerations being thrown about on social media sites and some news outlets are deeply concerning to all of us,” Vacchiano said in a written statement. “Reasonable people will understand and reject this hyperbole.”
Vacchiano described the Friends of NRA group as a volunteer one that, over its 25 years, has dedicated over $850 million to go toward educating people about hunter safety and gun safety. He also said the group has never engaged in politics and that its volunteers “have the common desire to protect our children and our community.”
“I was recently reminded by a good friend that talking is always better than fighting and that educating is always better than responding without knowing both sides,” Vacchiano said. “Let’s open the dialogue without the attacks and let us not infringe on the rights of individuals and legitimate community-based businesses while we exchange our views.”
Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso (D-Port Washington), who is moderating the forum, said Moms Demand Action, which is co-sponsoring the event with Great Neck-based North Shore Action, had came to him about the event.
“Because of some of the bills I co-sponsored and sponsored, they felt I could be a good one to forward this mission of ‘gun sense,’” D’Urso said. “We don’t call it ‘gun control’ anymore. That infers we want to take the guns away.”
The forum, “Preventing Gun Violence in Our Communities,” will feature four panelists and two high school speakers, according to a flier.
They include Avalon Fenster, the founder of March for Our Lives Long Island, Shenee Johnson of Moms Demand Action, Sergio Argueta, the founder and board president of STRONG Youth, a nonprofit aiming to stop gang violence, and Madeline Singas, the Nassau County district attorney.
“This is an informative way to bring the interested voters, citizens, residents up to date and probably attract new people that they want to get up to date,” D’Urso said.
Every speaker would talk before audience members could ask questions, D’Urso said, which would be written down on cards distributed during the gun safety event.
It is also open to people outside of the North Hempstead area.
“We don’t limit [it] only to the North Shore residents,” D’Urso said. “We try to reach as many people as possible that are interested in this issue.”
Vacchiano, who is not involved with the Great Neck forum, said he hopes it will engage in open and honest discussion about gun violence.
“As the spokesman for our committee I would like to express that we encourage open and honest debate on the issue of gun violence and do hope that is what will take place there in Great Neck,” he said.
The event at the Main Library at 159 Bayview Ave. in Great Neck will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include a response from Nassau County Friends of NRA.