New York park that's home to 130,000 people will soon be a massive "gun-free zone"

(AP Photo/Mike Groll)

In his majority opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas warned lawmakers not to try to declare the entire island of Manhattan a “sensitive place” off-limits to lawful concealed carry licensees, but he didn’t say anything about Adirondack Park, which is the biggest park in the lower 48 states and home to about 130,000 residents. Those folks, many of them gun owners already, are now in the crosshairs of the state’s post-Bruen restrictions on the right to carry, after the state legislature included the entirety of the park in its list of sensitive places where guns are banned outright.

Reuters reports that, just a couple of weeks before the new laws take effect, many residents are up in arms, figuratively speaking, about what the new laws will mean to them and how they’ll be enforced.

“It pretty much means I’ve got to leave the firearm at home,” said Rick Bennett, who sells guns and fishing tackle from his store in the hamlet of North Creek.

… People who run summer camps, which in themselves are a new sensitive location, wonder if popular riflery courses for children are now a crime. Up at Mount Van Hoevenberg, a former Winter Olympics venue inside the park, it is unclear how the annual biathlon, a sport mixing skiing with target shooting, can proceed. It will be a felony to have a gun at sports venues.

… Bennett said he got his concealed-carry gun license in 1980 and loves heating up canned venison from last season’s hunt in a skillet.

His loaded Kimber 9mm pistol was tucked as usual into his waistband as he drove through the mountains across a patchwork quilt of different land types. He worried that if he gets pulled over in the wrong place one day and is convicted of the new gun possession felony, he will lose his guns.

For miles, the paved road crossed swatches of private property, which lawmakers said will automatically become restricted locations if owners don’t post signs saying guns are welcome.

Loose bullets rolled around in his truck’s dashboard tray as he turned onto the rocky 4-mile (6-km) track to his family’s lakeside cabin, winding through the state-owned Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest, which will become a sensitive location, according to the bill’s sponsors.

Bennett doesn’t just have to worry about losing his guns if he’s caught carrying in the rural mountain places. He could be looking at prison time. Under the new laws slated to go into effect on September 1st, it’s considered a “violent felony” offense to carry a firearm into a “sensitive place,” and the law’s chief sponsor says that includes Adirondack Park. Ironically, under the state’s previous carry regulations those granted even a “restricted” carry license could generally carry in sparsely populated rural areas like the park; a provision that the state’s attorneys pointed to in trying to defend the state’s “may issue” laws. After SCOTUS slapped down those statutes, however, New York Democrats declared open season on the right to bear arms in self-defense.

Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democratic assembly member from the Bronx in New York City, said the bill he co-sponsored was a reasonable response to what he called a wrongly decided opinion by “highly politicized, right-wing justices.”

The week after the law passed, the office of Governor Kathy Hochul, also a Democrat, said state-owned Forest Preserve land in the park, about two-fifths of the park’s area, should not be considered sensitive locations, contradicting the bill’s sponsors. More than half of the park is private land.

“They rushed this through without anyone getting to vet it,” said Dan Stec, a Republican state senator from the park’s south. He proposed amending the law to exclude Adirondack Park public lands. Dinowitz said he opposed the amendment, while Hochul’s office did not respond to that question.

Hochul’s statement doesn’t carry any legal weight, so if she wanted to exempt the park and the 130,000 or so people who live inside its confines the time to have done that would have been while these gun control bills were being crafted. Instead, as Sen. Stec pointed out, the state legislature rushed through these new laws without giving law enforcement (much less the general public) a chance to weigh in or even see the legislative text before it was approved.

County clerks involved in the gun-license system and at least one Adirondacks district attorney say the law is confusing. Residents don’t know what to think.

“I’m not even sure that you could actually stop and use the bathroom if you had to between you and the gun range,” said John Bowe, president of the Dunham’s Bay Fish and Range Club.

The plaintiffs who won the pro-gun Supreme Court ruling live just south of the Adirondacks, including Tom King, the president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association.

“I have gotten hundreds of calls from people from the Adirondacks,” King said, “and all I can say is that there are going to be lawsuits.”

We’ve already seen several lawsuits filed in response to the state’s pending gun control laws, but the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. I just hope that they can put a halt to these new infringements on our Second Amendment rights before they do any harm to legal gun owners.