EDITORIAL: Gun law divides supes

IN CAPITAL LETTERS LIKE THESE, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors last week denounced “AN UNCONSTITUTIONAL ATTACK UPON THE RIGHTS OF LAW ABIDING CITIZENS” in Resolution No. 396-2022. All the Republican supervisors voted for the resolution. All Democrats but one voted against the resolution or abstained. So what’s the big deal?

It’s election time and there’s a race for governor as well as all members of the state Senate and Assembly, the House of Representatives, one U.S. Senate seat, too. This year it looks like a big issue in the governor’s race will be guns, pistols to be specific, and the policy of “concealed carry.”

Since the early 1900s New York has had strict rules about firearms, referred to as the Sullivan Act. But that changed when the Supreme Court overruled Sullivan in a case called New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc., v Bruen (the superintendent of New York State Police).

In response, Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, worked with the leaders of the state Senate and Assembly, both also Democrats, to craft a new law that appears to address the concerns of the Supreme Court. The county Resolution calls this a “knee-jerk, unvetted and political reaction” to the court’s decision. The county’s Resolution No. 396 says that getting a permit to carry a concealed gun is a “lengthy burdensome process”; the permit must be renewed every three years; and there are strict penalties for carrying a concealed pistol where not allowed.

Supporters of the new state law focus on other aspects of the legislation. For instance, no concealed carry in “sensitive” places, says a release from Gov. Hochul’s office. Those include Times Square, bars, libraries, schools, government buildings and hospitals.

It’s not clear whether the new state law will meet the new Supreme Court standards but if anyone needs a reminder why the state law or something like it, consider the requirement that you have to be at least 21 years old to own or possess a semi-automatic weapon.

At the Board of Supervisors September 14 meeting, the Republican supervisors had the votes to adopt Law No. 396 calling for repeal of the state law. The outvoted Democrats said they had only two days to read the resolution and, as it turned out, the state’s new gun law.

Sheriff Donald Krapf spoke briefly, saying that he was not clear what the new law is. “It needs some time and clarification.” For that reason, he said, “I oppose the legislation.” By the time Minority Leader Tistrya Houghtling (D-New Leb) stood up again the GOP supervisors had adopted the law. But Ms. Houghtling asked for a show of hands from those supervisors who had read the legislation. Three hands went up.

“There is no rush,” she said, and followed up with a request for the majority to table the resolution. What emerged as Democrats spoke was that they too had reservations about the county resolution and certain parts of the new law.

It’s hard to tell what the supervisors achieved by their brief but civil debate unless it’s to keep the new law in front of the public. If GOP candidates keep condemning the state law they will get support from their conservative base but lose the independent voters they need to elect, including Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for governor. But the majority of voters in New York say they favor common sense gun control. Democrats would be wise to stress the issue. But please read the law first.

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