A famed Coney Island restaurant has come under fire for agreeing to host a National Rifle Association (NRA) fundraiser this spring.
In April, Gargiulo’s Restaurant, 2911 West 15th Street, will play host to Brooklyn’s Friends of NRA’s second annual fundraiser, held on behalf of the nonprofit organization which, since the late 1800s has advocated for gun rights in America.
News of the event, slated for April 12 at 6 p.m., comes on the heels of the February 14 mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 students and teachers were killed and 14 more were hospitalized. The massacre, which has since prompted national organizations and companies alike to cut ties ties with the NRA, is the fifth deadliest school shooting in American history.
The invitation to the Friends of the NRA event boasts the celebration of “a legacy of shooting sports traditions” with “champions of the second amendment.”
The fundraiser will include dinner, raffles, auction and “fun,” according to organizers, with “exclusive NRA guns, gear, decor and collectibles” up for grabs.
Among the prizes, according to The Daily News, are the “2018 Gun of the Year set,” which includes a Kimber .45-caliber pistol engraved with “Defending Freedom” and an NRA serial number; the John Wayne “Lil’ Duke” BB Rifle; a .410.-gauge shotgun; a Colt Cobra revolver; and a 7mm-08 “women’s rifle.”
Elected officials across the city were quick to condemn the Coney Island mainstay for making room for such an event.
“At a time when our country is mourning the loss of 17 lives in a mass shooting, it is profoundly disappointing that a storied Coney Island institution, with a long history of being a strong civic and community partner, is choosing to host a National Rifle Association fundraising event that includes raffle giveaways of guns,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger, Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, Public Advocate Letitia James, State Comptroller Scott Stringer and State Senator Diane Savino in a joint statement.
“Bringing an event like this to Coney Island is an affront to all of the hard work that our community has done to address gun violence in our neighborhood,” the electeds continued. “We know that Gargiulo’s has always had the best interests of the Coney Island community at heart, which is why it is so disappointing that they are hosting the NRA, an organization that actively lobbies for concealed carry reciprocity, something that NYPD Commissioner [James] O’Neill has rightfully called ‘insanity.’ There is no room in Coney Island or our city for events like this. We urge Gargiulo’s to expeditiously cancel this event.”
Borough President Eric Adams agreed.
“There are far more friends of gun reform in Brooklyn, including responsible gun owners like me, than friends of the NRA who think it’s responsible to raffle off rifles at a fundraiser,” he said. “Students from Park Slope to Parkland are leading a national movement demanding action to save lives amid our gun violence epidemic, and I believe our borough’s young people will have plenty to say about this event happening in our own backyard.”
Some, however, came to the defense of the eatery.
“What a disgrace to attack a business for conducting business,” said Father Michael Gelfant, spiritual leader of St. Finbar Catholic Church, in a Facebook post. “The owners of [Gargiulo’s] not only held Coney Island from complete collapse (while [two] of [three] Coney Island elected officials have now been charged with corruption), but they are also very generous to the charitable efforts of the Diocese of Brooklyn and huge supporters of the Autistic community here in Bath Beach. In fact, they have done more to raise money for the autistic school than our politicians have allocated funds.”
Gelfant also contended that the politicians mentioned above “should go after the fundraisers of Planned Parenthood who actually kill people each year not the NRA who provide gun safety programs.”
Parents at nearby Mark Twain Intermediate School, on Neptune Avenue in Coney Island, are reportedly conflicted about the school’s connection to the restaurant, according to one who said that some parents want to stop holding the school’s numerous events there while others “Feel bad because it’s a small business.
“We’re a community and we help each other,” the parent added. “If [the Friends of the NRA] were asking for the venue this week, I don’t think they would have accepted the booking. How can you not want to support a neighborhood business but some parents feel they can’t now.”
While Gargiulo’s has not yet responded to this paper’s request for comment, owner Anthony Russo told the Daily News that this would be the second time the family-owned and operated business hosted the Brooklyn NRA affiliate, adding that while “there were no issues last year,” they are “trying to address the issue with Friends of the NRA.”
The event, he added, was booked well before the Parkland shooting. “We don’t want issues with anybody,” Russo told the News. “Our hearts go out to the families of the victims.”
Gargiulo’s was established in 1907 by the Gargiulo family.
By press time, an official NRA spokesperson, whom the Brooklyn group had referred this paper to, had not responded to a request for comment.