Honor guards in New York want clarification on gun law

The state of New York rushed through a set of new gun control regulations in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision. Lawmakers there were freaked out over the possibility that law-abiding citizens might actually be able to carry firearms for self-defense that they couldn’t take their time and finely craft the new regulations to be as narrow as possible.

Instead, the new rules have created a lot of confusion and even impacted the kind of activities that shouldn’t really be subject to such regulations.

Now, honor guards throughout the state are seeking clarification on the law.

When New York passed strict new gun laws last summer, it caused confusion regarding how it might impact military funerals and other events where gun salutes are part of the ceremony. Adding to the concern is the ongoing court battle over whether parts of the new gun laws are constitutional.

When a veteran’s family requests it, an honor guard detail will help pay last respects at their funeral. It most often includes three rifle volleys fired in succession by the Monroe County American Legion Honor Guard.

“This is something the veterans deserve,” said Dave Matzan, commander of the Monroe County American Legion Honor Guard. “They’ve earned it.”

New York’s new gun laws have presented a quandary. The laws restricted guns in “sensitive locations,” such as churches and public places. Honor guards across New York say it’s unclear how those laws might affect ceremonial events.

“It’s a worry,” said Matzan. “And it’s an unjustifiable worry in my opinion.”

When Matzan reached out to the New York State Attorney General’s Office for clarification, he was directed to contact state police, according to a correspondence he shared with Spectrum News 1. He says he has written letters to local state lawmakers, asking them for clarification. Several law enforcement sources say their agencies would not stop honor guards and others from performing gun salutes at military funerals and other events.

Yes, several officials have said they wouldn’t prosecute honor guards, particularly since their guns can’t fire live rounds, but that’s not the same as the law explicitly permitting certain behaviors.

And that’s the concern I have.

New York’s law was a rush job. It was passed as an emergency measure because Gov. Kathy Hochul thought people exercising their rights was a catastrophe in the making. There wasn’t the scrutiny and debate we normally see on a bill.

As a result, there are holes that could have been fixed with amendments before passage. Things like permitting reenactments or honor guards, for example.

Instead, groups like these are left trusting they won’t be prosecuted rather than having the law actually permit their activities. The problem with that is what happens when some prosecutor thinks taking on something like this is his ticket to fame and glory. What then?

You’ll see members of the American Legion or VFW locked up for trying to honor our veterans. It’s absolutely insane, yet that is what New York and Hochul have wrought.

These guys should have to trust prosecutors not to have them arrested and charged for gun law violations. They deserve so much better than that.

Yet this is New York for you.