Wenk goes shopping…with a bb gun

Jay Wenk

Jay Wenk

If you’re still on edge after seeing a shotgun-toting man while shopping at Adams or Walmart last weekend, you can rest a bit easier. It wasn’t a shotgun and he wasn’t going to shoot anyone. In an attempt to show his displeasure with Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum’s recent call to arms. Woodstock councilman and World War II veteran Jay Wenk walked around Adams Fairacre Farms and Walmart in the town of Ulster on December 5. “I went shopping at Adams carrying my BB gun by the stock with it pointed down. I wasn’t looking to point it at anybody,” Wenk said.

Still, the sight alarmed some who felt uncomfortable and left the store. Wenk said an employee eventually approached him and told him he needed to put the gun back in his car if he wanted to continue shopping. “After some discussion, I did so,” Wenk said.

Van Blarcum recently posted a message on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page urging those with valid pistol permits to carry their weapons in public to help protect the citizenry.


After shopping at Adams, Wenk entered Walmart, again with his BB gun. Wenk said he specifically chose Walmart because he knew the large retail chain sells guns. Wenk went to the pharmacy to pick up some orders, then went around to other departments. “A guy asked me if I was returning the BB gun. I said no. He said you’ll have to remove it from the store. After awhile I did that,” Wenk said. “They were very insistent that I remove it from the store.”

Though Wenk didn’t want to cause a panic, he said he got the kind of reaction he was seeking.

“I told people I wanted to make the sheriff look foolish and gaga.”

During the general announcement portion of this week’s Town Board meeting, Wenk elaborated on his disgust for Van Blarcum’s comments. “Police chiefs are trying to do what they can to get guns off the streets. And here’s the sheriff, in my opinion, flying in the face of law and order,” Wenk said. “For somebody that has been in combat, I dread the idea of us sitting here, at a meeting, and somebody walking in looking for trouble, and half a dozen people in the public here being armed. The insanity of this is just incomprehensible. I’m embarrassed, I’m ashamed and I’m frightened by the actions of the sheriff.”

Wenk is no stranger to advocating for more peaceful times, having been arrested in recent years for picketing outside a town of Ulster Army recruiting center and last year after a sit-in at Veterans Memorial Plaza in Manhattan that called for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wenk also picketed in front of the county Department of Social Services last October in protest of Van Blarcum’s order to have visitors to the office checked for outstanding warrants. He carried a sign reading “When Will the Wealthy be ID’d?”

Wenk feels Van Blarcum should be above the fray. “The sheriff ought to be a leader to those who refuse to live in fear. His pronouncement, to me is just a scream of fear, of ‘my god, we’ve got to get more guns on the street.”

There are 16 comments

  1. Jack

    I think its pretty lame to carry a BB gun into a crowded store. He had his say at the Town Board but No, lets take it further, lets upset, frighten or put even more people on edge. If a teen did that they’d be arrested. So hooray for him he got his publicity, he’s lucky to have not been shot by some nervous rookie. I think his actions were childish, stupid, and just wrong.

  2. Melinda McKnight

    I applaud Mr. Wenk for his activism. The writer of the article neglected to mention Mr. Wenk’s service in the U.S. Military. He experienced the horror of war. If all citizens of our democracy participated in the way Mr. Wenk does then our communities, country and world would be a better place to be.

  3. NYArtist

    Any of us faced with a terrorist situation would relish the action of someone armed with a gun coming to their defense, someone who knew how to shoot and keep their cool. It’s only in theory that people are against those with skills and practice carrying a firearm. Faced with a real life situation, this could save lives as it takes way too long for the police to arrive and then they stand around trying to figure out what to do while hostages are being killed. Just try to imagine this for a minute before you attack the sheriff.

  4. CP

    One would imagine that Walmart, in particular, which sells guns, would embrace Mr. Wenk’s “embrace” of the sheriff’s position. The store’s unhappiness with his carrying the weapon underscores the problems surrounding the issue. Bravo, Mr. Wenk.

  5. JimN

    Liberals keep mentioning FEAR.
    I am not Fearful of ISIS. I am not cowering like Obama thinks I am.
    I am PISSED OFF!
    Get a grip.

    1. CP

      Set your partisanship down, Jim – fear, being pissed off, being aware but not afraid – all those cut across all party and philosophical lines. Really, not everything is about “liberal bad, conservative good” or the other way around.

  6. Teejay

    The Sheriff was referring to legally-carried concealed weapons, not long guns carried openly. Furthermore, Walmart in Kingston does not sell guns — only BB guns. Apparently Mr. Wenk feels justified in creating a public disturbance in order to force others to listen to his views.

    His actions were misguided and irresponsible. Shortly after his stunt, there were rumors on Facebook of “a man with a shotgun in Adams,” which drew responses blaming the Sheriff. Certainly Wenk knew that there would be such responses, and deliberately chose the path of disinformation and deception to spread his “message,” whatever that might be.

    The only one who looks “foolish and gaga” here is Jay Wenk.

  7. David Moraca

    He is ridiculous. The Sheriff’s call was to responsible, licensed permit holders. We carry concealed. You would not even know we are carrying them. To walk around with a BB gun, or any other weapon, out in the open through a retail store is stupidity at it’s best. It is not activism in any way, shape or form.

  8. John Malloy

    To mr wenk I thank him for his service but to take a BB gun with him is a mistake one should have a CCW permit like the good sheriff had said and he could make the world a little safer and nobody would be none the wiser unless you had to use it to stop a bad guy.! just saying

  9. Tim

    In an effort to make the sheriff look like a fool, he made himself look like a fool. Allow me to convey the concept of a concealed carry weapons permit and the message that Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum sent.

    1st: A concealed weapons permit allows a person to carry a handgun CONCEALED in public for the purpose of SELF defense.

    2nd: The sheriff’s message is to encourage those who already have a concealed weapons permit, and who are comfortable with carrying and their ability, to carry because there is a high risk of an upcoming terrorist attack. The concept is to help fight a terrorist attack until police arrive. A “good guy with a gun”, in the right place at the right time, can stop a “bad guy with a gun”.

    There is a serious threat to the people of this country. Instead of positively contributing to the situation, Mr.Wenk caused a scene. SHAME ON YOU. Stop being stupid and mind your own business.

  10. Wow

    You people are nuts to think that is acceptable. No where does the Sheriff state anything about carrying BB guns. It clearly states any one who is a legal concealed carrier should be carrying

  11. Kevin

    The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Just because I don’t own a gun, shouldn’t allow me to prevent someone else from doing so. The right to carry guns is all about preventing tyranny and to protect our inalienable rights as citizens.

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