Over the weekend, Republican candidate for governor Rob Astorino appeared a firearms festival in Sullivan County and made supportive statements of the organizers’ efforts to teach marksmanship and firearms training for kids.

Time Warner Cable News, which covered the event, has Astorino on tape saying, “Fishing and hunting has always been a part of our culture in America and very strongly here in New York. And because some bad people do some very bad things with guns doesn’t mean we should change our whole society and way of life.”

But for the state Democratic Committee, Astornio’s appearance at the event was far more troubling, seizing on his support for gun-training programs in schools, especially when it comes to providing training to kids with discipline problems:

“When New Yorkers think about ‘back to school’ shopping, guns are not what come to mind. With these shocking comments, Republican Rob Astorino has proven once again that his ultraconservative views are dangerously out of step with mainstream New Yorkers. The people of this state have the right to know why a candidate for Governor thinks we need more guns in our schools,” said NYSDC spokesperson Peter Kauffmann.

In context, Astorino is backing programs that teach kids how to handle guns safely. TWC News reporter Eva McKend — whose story the state committee linked to in its news release — found people at the event who emphasized proper training.

Nevertheless, Democrats feel they have a trump card of sorts with Astorino’s anti-SAFE Act stance. In this heavily Democratic state, gun control legislation remains broadly popular, and the SAFE Act, controversial though it may be for gun owners and Second Amendment supporters, is one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature legislative achievements in his first term.

Astorino faces a Catch-22 in that regard: He needs these conservative voters to support his candidacy for governor, but also needs to move a broader electorate that is not attuned to a firearms culture to back him over the better-funded, better-known Democratic incumbent.

Updated: Astorino campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud responded.

“County Executive Astorino said he would support marksmanship programs in communities that want them,” she said. “These programs have taught proper rifle safety to youngsters in rural communities for generations. Mr. Cuomo should lay off the hyperbole and stop attacking the sportsman culture.”