Growing number of NY sheriffs say they won't aggressively enforce new carry restrictions

Ross D. Franklin

Hopefully this will soon be a moot point and many of the restrictions that we’re talking about will be halted by the courts. A federal judge in Syracuse took the first step towards making that possibility a reality last week when he granted a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of many of the provisions contained within the Concealed Carry Improvement Act, though the judge stayed his decision to allow the state to appeal to the Second Circuit.

While the legal fights are continuing, the New York Times has discovered that, even while the laws are on the books, there’s another impediment to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s latest attempt to criminalize a constitutional right; many law enforcement officials outside of New York City say they have no plans to proactively enforce the new gun control measures as long as they’re on the books.

“I have to enforce it because I swore to uphold the laws, but I can use as much discretion as I want,” said Richard C. Giardino, the Republican sheriff in Fulton County, northwest of Albany. “If someone intentionally flouts the law, then they’re going to be handled one way. But if someone was unaware that the rules have changed, then we’re not going to charge someone with a felony because they went into their barbershop with their carry concealed.”

Such criticism has been heard from Greene County, in the Hudson Valley, to Erie County, home to Buffalo, the state’s second-largest city, as well as from groups like the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, which called the new law a “thoughtless, reactionary action” that aims to “restrain and punish law-abiding citizens.”

“We will take the complaint, but it will go to the bottom of my stack,” said Mike Filicetti, the Niagara County sheriff, who appends a Ronald Reagan quote to his emails. “There will be no arrests made without my authorization and it’s a very, very low priority for me.”

The law took effect on Sept. 1, and, at least anecdotally, has been used only sparingly since. Jeff Smith, the sheriff in mostly rural Montgomery County, west of Albany, said his office has had no calls for enforcement of the new law, noting that “almost every household” in his jurisdiction had some sort of gun.

Sheriff Smith, a Republican, said he understands the motives of lawmakers to quell violence and mass shootings, but that the gun law inadvertently targeted lawful gun owners.

“The pendulum swung way too far,” he said.

While Democrats have no problem with left-leaning prosecutors, police chiefs, and other law enforcement officials adopting the same stance when it comes to enforcing drug possession laws, as you might imagine there’s a glaring double standard when it comes to law enforcement using that same discretion in enforcing gun control laws.

“To turn around and say, ‘For the laws that we don’t like, or we may disagree with politically, we will refuse to enforce,’ to me is the height of hypocrisy,” said State Senator Zellnor Myrie, a Brooklyn Democrat who voted for the bill.

John Feinblatt, the president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said sheriffs weren’t just endangering the public, they were also “endangering their colleagues in law enforcement.”

Mr. Myrie added that if sheriffs are angry, they should direct their ire at the Supreme Court, noting that the majority decision in the case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, an avowed conservative — and specifically noted a historical basis for restrictions in “sensitive places.”

Yeah, Justice Thomas did note that there are a few “sensitive places” found in longstanding laws; restricting the right to carry in polling locations, legislative assemblies, and courthouses to be specific. New York didn’t even attempt to adhere to Thomas’s admonition that broadly banning concealed carry in almost every public (and all private) locations wouldn’t stand up to constitutional scrutiny. Instead, Hochul and her fellow Democrats have made it a felony offense to carry almost everywhere in the state, even if you possess a concealed carry license. Thomas’s opinion isn’t the problem, despite Myrie’s insipid criticism; the issue is the fact that Democrats like Myrie still refuse to recognize the Second Amendment protects a real and fundamental right to armed self-defense; both inside the home and in public.

Feinblatt’s complaints are even more absurd, given that we’re talking about prosecuting individuals who have already gone through the extensive and arguably unconstitutional process of obtaining a concealed carry license in New York. These folks aren’t responsible for the violent crime plaguing New York; they just want to protect themselves from it, but Feinblatt apparently believes that the focus of police should be on ensuring that concealed carry holders don’t set foot onto a gun-free zone rather than pursuing the carjackers, home invaders, and street shooters that are wreaking havoc in cities across the state.

As I said, hopefully this is soon a moot point and no law enforcement agency will be tasked with infringing on the right to bear arms. Until that happens, however, I’m glad to see a growing number of sheriffs and county governments siding with we the people over the gun-grabbing politicians in Albany.