Do New York's new gun control laws ban the shooting sports?

Do New York's new gun control laws ban the shooting sports?
Bernardo De Niz

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul says shooting competitions won’t be touched by the new round of gun control laws slated to go into effect on September 1st, but many residents are understandably reluctant to take her word at face value, especially since at least one legislator who voted for the new laws agrees that competitive shooting events are covered by the post-Bruen restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.

As the New York Post reports, the confusion stems from the incredibly broad language that New York Democrats rammed through the legislature without giving the public or law enforcement the chance to weigh in; in this case a ban on firearms at “sporting events.” There was no carveout in the legislation for the shooting sports, and now, less than two weeks before the laws can be enforced, no one seems to have a clue about what’s legal and what’s a criminal offense.

Rural residents have been up in arms since lawmakers passed legislation at the end of June banning firearms at a long list of venues including “sporting events” — which a prominent Democrat suggested would include gun competitions.

“I guess that’s covered by this,” Assembly Codes Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) told Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R-Saratoga) after she asked about the matter during a June 30 legislative debate.

“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,” Walsh told The Post.

Reps for the bill sponsors — Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins — did not respond to requests for comment.

But Dinowitz’s comment has led to lingering worries that Albany Democrats are shooting down a beloved pastime promoted by dozens of high schools teams from the Hudson to Lake Erie.

petition to Gov. Kathy Hochul — who signed the legislation into law soon after it passed — circulated by shooting enthusiasts has received more than 3,300 online signatures.

“We’ve got musical kids, we’ve got kids that are in a bunch of sports,” McKenna Coniber, 17, told The Post about the LeRoy Trap Shoot Team in western New York. “It’s something you can do while playing another sport. It’s a great activity for everybody. It’s a male or female, whatever, whoever.”

Hochul’s spokesperson says that shooting competitions are allowed because they’re associated with hunter education, but the Department of Environmental Conservation appears to be basing that off their own interpretation of the law rather than the statute itself. And with the state police promising more “guidance” to come before September 1st, it’s no wonder that so many gun owners are unsure what the future holds or how these new laws will be enforced.

“The laws were so hastily put together and they’re so ambiguous and poorly written without understanding regarding anything about the culture or cultural heritage of upstate New York,” Tom King, president of the New York Rifle and Pistol Association, told The Post Thursday.

… “It’s near and dear to my heart because this is what I do on the weekends,” Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes (R-Finger Lakes) told The Post.

“There is so much uncertainty as to what is or isn’t happening,” she added. “Nobody knows how to plan.”

I’m getting a feeling of deja vu here. After the passage of the New York SAFE Act in 2013, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Democrats spent months trying to come up with new interpretations of the gun control package instead of going back and repealing the unworkable provisions within the law. First the Cuomo administration ruled that the SAFE Act’s ban on magazines larger than seven rounds didn’t really mean a ban, and that 10-round magazines could still be used as long as they didn’t have more than seven rounds of ammunition in them. Meanwhile, the SAFE Act’s requirement that all ammunition sales go through a background check was just quietly ignored for years until Hochul revived the measure in the wake of the mass shooting in Buffalo back in May.

Once again New York Democrats appear to be relying on interpreting the law as they go along in order to save them from litigation challenging the constitutionality of these restrictions. It was a strategy that largely worked when it came to the SAFE Act, but with the Supreme Court looking like it’s far more eager to hear Second Amendment cases than they were a decade ago it might not be nearly as successful this time around.