Hundreds of gun owners and Second Amendment supporters turned out in Lewis County, New York on Tuesday evening to push local lawmakers to adopt a Second Amendment Sanctuary ordinance declaring no county funds will be spent on enforcing the state’s gun laws.
Patrick Morse was one of the more than 300 individuals in attendance, and the Lewis County gun store owner joins me on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co. to talk about the support the proposed ordinance is receiving from residents, the county sheriff, and some members of the county legislature.
While Lewis County Sheriff Michael Carpinelli is on board with the proposal, other upstate sheriffs say they can’t support similar ordinances in their counties. In St. Lawrence County, after dozens of residents showed up for Monday’s local legislative meeting to push for an ordinance, Sheriff Brooks Bigwarfe said he can’t pick and choose what laws to enforce.
“I can’t pick and choose laws. It might be a burglary. It might be the SAFE Act. I can’t start picking and choosing what laws I’m going to enforce. That would be dangerous for the office and the citizens of St. Lawrence County,” he said.
The sheriffs of Montgomery and Fulton counties are saying much the same thing.
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.”
Smith said Gov. Andrew Cuomo could remove him from office if he announced he was going to refuse to enforce the SAFE Act, although he has some law enforcement discretion.
“I, nor members of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office, have ever gone out of our way to seek Safe Act violations and confiscate guns,” he said in his letter.
It is true that Gov. Cuomo could remove any sheriff who says they’re not going to enforce any new gun control laws going forward, or will no longer enforce the SAFE Act provisions. However, there’s nothing in state law forbidding those sheriffs from running for their old position in the special election that must take place after a removal by the governor. Cuomo could appoint someone to fill the sheriff’s position, but only until that special election takes place.
I have a sneaking suspicion that any upstate sheriff removed from office by Gov. Cuomo for not enforcing the SAFE Act would handily win a special election, supported by residents who want to reward the sheriff for taking a stand. Patrick Morse, the Lewis County gun store owner, says sheriffs need to decide what side they’re on; the Constitution or Cuomo’s.
I suspect that if Cuomo were actually interested in strict enforcement of the SAFE Act laws, these sheriffs might be taking a different position. We already know that the vast majority of SAFE Act arrests and prosecutions are taking place in just two of New York City’s five boroughs, and Sheriff Smith says he’s unaware of any arrests for SAFE Act violations in Montgomery County.
If Cuomo was to demand that these sheriffs start looking for pistol permit holders who didn’t re-register their handguns or register their semi-automatic rifles with the State Police, for instance, would they still claim that they just have to follow the law, or would that be a line in the sand that they would be unwilling to cross?
Be sure to check out the entire interview with Patrick Morse above, and stick around afterward for today’s armed citizen story featuring a neighbor who came to the aid of a carjacking victim, a Delaware man arrested three times in the past five years for being a felon in possession of a firearm, and a Vietnam veteran who came to the aid of Cleveland police officers when a suspect was trying to escape.
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