NY Democrat introduces bill to tweak state's new gun laws

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

While I do appreciate the fact that a New York Democrat assemblywoman believes that the state’s latest gun control measures were “hastily conceived” and have had lots of “unintended consequences,” my biggest problem with Marianne Buttenschon’s new bill is that it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Buttenschon, who represents a district in central New York, says she’s hoping to clear up confusion over whether or not historical re-enactors and honor guards can use firearms; something that Gov. Kathy Hochul says is allowed but other lawmakers who voted to approve the measures say are now forbidden.

“To prohibit lawful gun owners and history enthusiasts from re-creating America’s most meaningful moments is thoughtless,” Buttenschon said. “To threaten a solemn honor — the firing of rifles over the graves of service men and women — is insensitive. To tell police officers and first responders they can’t give an appropriate farewell to a late comrade-in-arms is an insult,” Buttenschon said.

“This bill remedies some of the unintended consequences of New York’s hastily conceived gun regulations,” the lawmaker added.

Buttenschon’s legislation would allow “persons participating in certain formal ceremonies to possess a firearm, rifle or shotgun, provided that such person has received prior approval from the municipality or other appropriate entity.”

In addition to reenactments and 21-gun salutes, Buttenschon’s bill would permit firearms at any other ceremony honoring a person who served their community or country.

All that’s great, but it fails to reckon with the bigger problems in the state’s gun control regime. These new laws weren’t passed in order to prevent Revolutionary War re-enactors from carrying modern recreations of 18th century muskets, nor were they put on the books to block 21-gun salutes from being a part of veterans’ funerals. These laws were aimed squarely at those wanting to exercise their right to bear arms in self-defense in public, and the re-enactors and families of veterans were caught in the political crossfire.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration insists that historical battle re-enactments are still OK, and some have still taken place this month. But persistent skepticism among event organizers and participants has resulted in some cancellations, like an 18th century encampment and battle re-enactment planned for last weekend north of Saratoga Springs.

“We’ve been getting reports from units that were supposed to attend that they don’t feel comfortable transporting muskets or bringing muskets to the site,” said Harold Nicholson, a re-enactor involved in the event at Rogers Island. “And so at that point, we decided that it was probably best not to (go ahead).”

The consternation stems from a law quickly approved after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated New York’s requirement that people must demonstrate an unusual threat to their safety to qualify for a license to carry a handgun outside their homes.

Hochul and her fellow Democrats in control of the state Legislature responded with a law that set strict new licensing criteria and limited where handguns, shotguns and rifles can be carried. Some re-enactors looking at the letter of the law have concluded the old-style weapons they use could place them in the crosshairs of the new rules.

As much as I’d love to see these reenactments and 21-gun salutes continue, any “fix” that leaves the fundamental issues with the state’s new carry laws unresolved isn’t worth supporting in my opinion. Buttenschon complains that these “thoughtless” provisions are impacting re-enactors, but what about the impact to those who want to protect themselves from violent criminals in their communities? That’s where the real damage is being done, given that the Second Amendment isn’t fundamentally premised on the right to engage in battlefield re-enactments, but the right of self-defense.

Buttenschon joined several of her Republican colleagues in publicly criticizing Hochul’s gun laws shortly after the bills were rammed through the state legislature, so I believe she’s sincere in her more recent complaints. I just wish she were willing to calling for full repeal of the new laws rather than merely nibbling at the edges of the state’s latest infringements on the right to keep and bear arms. It might cause problems for her within the Democratic caucus, but it’s still the right thing to do.