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.”