How New York's gun laws infringe on learning history

(Dougal Brownlie/The Gazette via AP)

I’m not a fan of New York’s new gun control laws, obviously. I mean, look at who I write for. If I were a fan, I’d be writing for The Trace or something like that.

I’m a gun guy. Firearms are a hobby of mine, which led me into writing this sort of thing. Big shock, right?

However, another long-time hobby of mine–historical reenactment–is under threat from New York’s gun control laws, it seems.

In fact, a battle reenactment isn’t going to be much of a reenactment.

This year’s Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration will have no guns and no battles.

New York state’s new concealed carry legislation, which went into effect Sept. 1, is preventing Battle of Plattsburgh reenactors from carrying and using their antique firearms in sensitive locations like museums and other public areas that are restricted from general public access for a limited time or special event, State Assemblyman D. Billy Jones said at a City Hall press conference Thursday.


“Basically what that says is our reenactors here, when they do their performances, when they march down the street carrying their weapons, that is considered a sensitive area under this law,” Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake), said.

“We have friends and neighbors to the north who have not been able to come here for three years, and now the time that they can come…they’re not coming…because a reenactor is not going to show up if they can’t have their weapons, that’s what they do.”

Besides the battle reenactments, all other planned activities will still be happening.

This will just affect the usual battle reenactments that take place at the Kent-Delord House Museum and every other event where reenactors would normally have their musket rifles, black powder rifles or flintlock rifles over the four-day weekend.

However, based on my own reenactment experience, the battles are the big draw for these events. Oh, they might have a whole small-town festival atmosphere away from the reenactment, with concerts and games or whathaveyou, but people come for the reenactment.

I started reenacting at the age of 13 when my family joined the 2nd Georgia Artillery group. Just before I turned 16, I moved over to the attached infantry unit, the 4th Georgia. While my peers got their driver’s licenses on their 16th birthday, I fought the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta.

While the Civil War was my father’s historical passion, it fostered a deep love of history that’s progressed to this very day. Not only do I still have friends I made during that time period, but it’s also led me to get involved in historical reenactment for the fur trade era, the Creek Wars period here in Georgia, and even medieval stuff (my actual historical focus, truth be told).

For New York’s gun control laws to inhibit this is infuriating beyond words. This is history. This is education. This is a way for people to see what the past was like–or as close as we can get it based on what we know of the era. It fosters a love of history for many others, whether they pursue reenactment or just pick up books and read about the past.

And why? Because New York lawmakers were upset that they weren’t going to be permitted to bar people from exercising their constitutionally protected rights?

What’s more, though, is that I doubt these lawmakers wanted to make battle reenactment impossible at so-called sensitive places. It’s likely that they didn’t even bother to think.

Remember, this was rushed into passing. There wasn’t time for detailed debate or discussion. There was no opportunity for reenactment groups to voice their concern as to how this would impact such an educational venture.

Not that New York lawmakers would have cared, of course.

Still, it’s more evidence that the Law of Unintended Consequences is unrelenting.