Civil disobedience and NY's carry laws

While the state’s latest infringements on the right to bear arms are being challenged in court, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency is reporting on a number of synagogue-goers who are still carrying to defend their sanctuaries in violation of New York’s ban on concealed carry in houses of worship.

As you might imagine, those gun owners weren’t willing to use their names when speaking to the press, but they aren’t shy about explaining why they’re risking a felony charge in order to ensure an armed response to any attack on their synagogue or the worshippers inside.

A Jewish first responder involved with security at his synagogue in Orange County, New York said that he “does not comply” with the state’s gun law. (Like others interviewed for this story, he asked that his name not be used to protect him from prosecution.)

“I carry 24/7 wherever I go,” the Orange County man said. “I believe that law is illegal, not me. History has shown us that when Jews are not being allowed to defend themselves, this can lead to bad outcomes.”

He also added that police officers in Orange County “might assume that we are still carrying and would be looking the other way.”

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office declined a request for comment.

Another Jewish gun owner in Rockland County told the New York Jewish Week that he doesn’t see the state law as valid.

“I don’t think it’s illegal,” the Rockland County man said. “I think New York says that they’ll prosecute me for even carrying the firearm, but we’ll take it up in the courts.”

He added that the fear of going to jail is meaningless when compared to the fear of an attack on his synagogue.

“If there is a use of force incident at my synagogue, I’m probably not walking out of there,” the source said. “If I’m willing to put my life down on the line to protect my community, am I willing to go to court and go to jail for a period of time? That’s the price I may have to pay.”

Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six, in other words.

Keep in mind that, up until the law changed on September 1st these guys could carry concealed in their synagogues without issue. Once the ironically-named Concealed Carry Improvement Act went into effect, however, the state imposed a blanket ban on concealed carry in religious centers, even if church leaders want armed citizens in the pews or at the pulpit. Even those who possess a concealed carry license and have been given the green-light by church or synagogue officials to carry on the premises are technically committing a felony offense punishable by years in prison; something that Gov. Kathy Hochul and her anti-gun allies in the legislature claim will make those attending services safer instead of more at-risk.

A Brooklyn man told the New York Jewish Week that while bigger synagogues can pay for armed security, at his smaller congregation, he and others must carry a gun to protect their congregants.

“It’s a sensitive topic,” the Brooklyn source said. “No one who is a family man with a stable income living the American life is exactly interested in getting a felony conviction with a mandatory minimum sentence.”

The source added that he has had conversations with New York City Police Department officers who are “sympathetic” to his concerns.

A spokesperson for the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information told the New York Jewish Week that “the NYPD declines to comment on pending litigation.”

“Certain things are left unspoken, but what these police officers implied was that, ‘you are getting yourself into trouble,’” the Brooklyn source said.

Sympathy doesn’t equate to non-enforcement, and while there’ve been multiple sheriffs and law enforcement officials in upstate New York who’ve said they don’t plan on “aggressively” enforcing the provisions of the CCIA, New York City officials have taken a hardline approach to applying the law.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said he will act decisively in gun cases.

“Enforcing our strict gun laws is a top priority at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office,” Bragg said.

The state’s ban on concealed carry in houses of worship isn’t the only unconstitutional aspect of the CCIA, but at the moment it’s probably getting the most attention thanks to the number of lawsuits that have been filed specifically objecting to the provision. Not only have Jewish gun owners filed suit, a coalition of more than two dozen churches has brought a separate challenge, and two pastors from Buffalo and Niagara Falls have teamed up with the Second Amendment Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition in a third lawsuit that aims to restore the right to carry in churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship.

I have faith that this portion of the CCIA will soon be enjoined from being enforced (along with many other portions of the anti-carry bill), but honestly, it can’t come soon enough. Every day that this law remains in effect the safety, security, and civil rights of New Yorkers are being violated by those in authority, and it shouldn’t take an act of civil disobedience to exercise a constitutionally-protected right to protect yourself from those who would do you harm.