By Larry Keane
On Thursday, Sept. 1, New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s new gun restrictions take effect and there’s one common feeling across the state: confusion.
The governor decried the decision when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Empire State’s subjective restrictive “may issue” concealed carry requirements. She was “shocked” and responded by pushing even more restrictions through the legislature.
Law-abiding gun owners have cried foul ever since, noting the gun control laws don’t hold criminals accountable and law enforcement and county officials charged with implementing and overseeing the rules have voiced concern.
First and Flawed
In Gov. Hochul’s rushed attempt to be first after the Supreme Court ruled against New York in its Bruen decision, her antigun bias has wreaked havoc in New York.
In Upstate counties that comprise the vast majority of New York’s geography, confusion reigns. Fulton County Sherriff Richard Giardino held an information session for law-abiding gun owners. It was jampacked with New Yorkers worried that Gov. Hochul’s gun control will ensnare them and turn them into criminals.
“We’re placed in an untenable position of enforcing laws that we might believe are unconstitutional, and as a former judge and DA, I still have my law license, I believe many provisions of this are unconstitutional and will be knocked down in the courts,” said Giardino.
In Greene County, Lisa and Richard MacLeod – owners of Recon Defense – have been swamped with calls, walk-ins and social media posts from concerned New Yorkers. “We are up to 13,00 hits on this already. Our phone has not stopped ringing. As far as what does this mean? Everyone is so confused no one knows what to do,” Lisa told local media.
New York Republican Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh told the New York Post, “A lot of times New York is trying to be first — the first to poke back at the US Supreme Court because they didn’t like the concealed carry ruling … So [Democrats] tried to be first and then they’re not best. It was sloppy drafting.”
The assemblywoman’s comments followed a scramble by the governor’s administration to reassure New Yorkers that prohibitions on recreational shooting sports weren’t included in the bill despite Assembly Codes Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) telling Walsh the exact opposite during bill debate. “I guess that’s covered by this.”
One lawmaker in Albany is leading her colleagues in their fight back and attempting to shield lawful recreational and shooting sports activities from the flawed law. Republican N.Y. state Sen. Pam Helming introduced legislation to protect the shooting sports and to clarify the law with language to deem competitive shooting sports events, often held at sportsmen’s clubs, exempted from the state’s list of “sensitive places.”
“The language in our laws matters – and the language in the law that takes effect on September 1 unfairly puts these programs at risk,” Sen. Helming said. “Participation in these sports is growing, especially in our rural areas. Shooting sports programs and competitions are conducted safely and responsibly, with applicable training and education and they should be allowed to operate as they always have—safely and successfully.”
Lawmakers aren’t expected back in Albany until the 2023 legislative session begins in January.
Gov. Hochul’s new gun control law is a kitchen sink of constitutionally-questionable restrictions and don’t do anything to stop criminals in her state from illegally obtaining and misusing firearms. The law expanded the “sensitive locations” where law-abiding concealed carriers cannot carry firearms, which include federal, state and local government buildings, health and medical facilities, daycares, parks, zoos and playgrounds, public transportation including subways and buses, polling sites, schools and even publicly-utilized state forest preserves, including the 6 million acres of the Adirondack Park. The law also allows the state to examine social media posts between neighbors to determine if an individual qualifies for a state-issued concealed carry permit. Court challenges are lining up fast.
Jane Havens, manager of Calamity Jane’s Firearms in Hudson Falls, N.Y., organized a recent townhall of her own to cover the new laws and it was attended by a few hundred people.
Her message to law-abiding gun owners and those trying to become them was short and simple. No matter how frustrating the process is: “Don’t give up this fight. We will help you.”
Firearm retailers are in a bind too. New York passed an extensive security and record keeping law that will also go into effect Sept. 1. NSSF met with the governor’s office and N.Y. State Police to obtain guidance for implementation guidance but the only thing that was clear was the state’s not ready. NSSF was told to advise member retailers that state police won’t conduct inspections without proper guidance in place first and officials from the governor’s office didn’t want New York firearm retailers to spending their resources to comply until regulations are published. State police informed NSSF that a Frequently Asked Questions page will be created to assist retailers soon.
The confusion wrought by Gov. Hochul has been purposeful and targeted at law-abiding gun owners and the lawful firearm industry. New York gun owners new and old are sticking together in this fight and not giving up. The firearm industry isn’t backing down either.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.