AP Photo/Julio Cortez
Gun owners in at least one New York county are eyeing a Second Amendment Sanctuary ordinance, and local lawmakers could approve the measure at a board meeting Tuesday evening.
WWNY-TV reports that the effort began with a simple Facebook group in the county, but has taken off in recent weeks as members set up petitions at local businesses for Second Amendment supporters to sign.
“To adopt a proposed ordinance which will generally say they will not fund or allow any employees to enforce any of the New York state firearm laws,” said Patrick Morse, spokesperson, Lewis County and Towns 2A Sanctuary.
Morse says the county would still enforce federal gun laws. He says the group is sick of state laws restricting gun rights.
“If we follow all these laws, which there seems to be no end in sight, the only groups of people that will have firearms is the government and the criminals and it is not going after the problem by disarming the people who have never broken a law. And I’m one of those,” he said. “It just seems like their common sense gun legislation has no common sense to it. They never ever include the people who are stakeholders. They always dictate from a far and we’re sick of it.”
While there’s no word on how the county’s board of legislators is leaning, the group does have the backing of at least one local official.
Sheriff Mike Carpinelli is not affiliated with the group but says he supports the effort.
“This wasn’t my idea – just some fantastic like-minded citizens that have finally had enough with the Albany bureaucracy, no representation,” he said.
With New York City-area lawmakers dominating the state Assembly, gun owners in upstate New York have long felt like their voices have been ignored in the state capitol. With the passage of the state’s SAFE Act back in 2013, those gun owners have become increasingly vocal in their opposition to new gun laws, and frankly I’m surprised it’s taken this long for the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement to spring up in New York.
Unfortunately, while Sheriff Carpinelli is backing the pro-2A ordinance in Lewis County, other upstate sheriffs aren’t on board,
Both Montgomery County Sheriff Jeff Smith and Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino issued statements this week rejecting calls from social media groups asking them to declare their respective counties “2nd Amendment Sanctuary counties.”
Smith and Giardino are Republicans who serve rural counties with many active gun owners. In written letters posted to their respective Facebook pages, each outlined his objection to New York’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, commonly known as the New York SAFE Act. While each explained his strong support for the second amendment — each also said he cannot announce he will refuse to enforce laws he doesn’t like personally.
Giardino, a former district attorney and former judge, explained why he won’t, and why other sheriffs should not, declare their counties “2nd Amendment Sanctuaries.”
“Under my Oath as the Fulton County Sheriff, my oath as an admitted Attorney in the State, as a Former District Attorney and County Court Judge, I can’t refuse to enforce any duly passed law which has been found Constitutional by the Courts. To do so would make myself or any other Sheriff derelict in their duties and subject to removal,” he said. “As Sheriffs we have to be cognizant of the fact that a Governor can remove a Sheriff who refuses to enforce the laws of the State of New York.”
While I respect the sheriff’s reasoning, I can’t help but note that there are plenty of provisions in the SAFE Act that are on the books but aren’t being enforced by any county sheriff or the state police. Back in 2015, for example, the Cuomo administration simply gave up on enforcing a law requiring background checks for all ammunition sales. Prosecutors in Erie County aren’t enforcing a provision of the SAFE Act that requires gun owners to only have seven rounds of ammunition in their ten round magazines.
Sheriffs in the state already enjoy the same discretion in enforcing gun control laws that they have in enforcing virtually every other law on the books, and there’s plenty of evidence that many upstate law enforcement officers aren’t that interested in arresting or prosecuting individuals for non-violent possessory offenses under the SAFE Act. As PolitiFact pointed out back in 2017, the vast majority of SAFE Act arrests and prosecutions are taking place in New York City, not upstate.
Since the law’s passage, there have been 11,893 arrests for SAFE Act violations in New York state through Feb. 17,  according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.
A disproportionate number of the arrests happened in New York City. Some 9,593 arrests were made in New York City compared with 1,641 arrests upstate and 659 arrests on Long Island or in the suburban Westchester and Rockland counties.
I’d also tell these sheriffs that there’s safety in numbers. Yes, Cuomo may have the power to remove sheriffs who refuse to enforce the laws of New York State. Can you imagine the political fallout, however, if Cuomo tried to remove a dozen or more sheriffs over their enforcement (or not) of the SAFE Act? I don’t think Cuomo actually wants that political fight. He’s much more interested in simply pretending that the gun control laws are working than he is in actually enforcing them.
I wish New Yorkers the best in their fight for their Second Amendment rights, and hopefully we’ll see a successful vote in Lewis County during Tuesday evening’s board meeting.