LOWVILLE — The line of people in the Lewis County Courthouse lobby waiting to go through security snaked back and forth three times the length of the space. The board room, second floor hallways, the stairway, the first floor area leading to the stairway were all full of the over 300 people who came through the metal detector.
Over 90 percent of those gathered were there to encourage legislators to make a local law that would prevent county officials, including the Sheriff’s Department, from enforcing state gun laws.
The originators of the Second Amendment Sanctuary County petition brought the document signed by 2,961 people, about 11 percent of the county’s population, and spoke out against New York’s gun laws.
In total, seven people signed up to speak at the meeting: five in favor of the sanctuary law and two in support of strict gun laws.
“This group is specifically concerned with the constant attacks on the peoples’ rights to keep and bear arms, an inalienable right to security protected by the Second Amendment,” said group co-organizer Beau Bailey of Lyons Falls. “We understand that not every resident of the county feels the same way as us. Much like in revolutionary times, there are loyalists that did not agree with declaring independence from Britain.”
In making a point about how he believes statistics can be used to mislead people, Mr. Bailey gave an example of including suicides by firearm in violent crime statistics because suicide is “not a malicious use of firearms toward another individual and hardly can be categorized as a violent crime.”
Christine Mooney of Glenfield did not agree.
“I consider suicide a violent crime and I also consider suicide to be something we need to try to reduce in terms of numbers. The problem with guns are that guns are very effective when someone wants to commit suicide,” she said, adding that with other methods, people often survive the attempts.
The one point both sides of the discussion agreed on is that Lewis County is a safe place to live.
“I feel safe here. New York has the second-lowest rate of gun homicide in all of the 50 states,” said Judy Bentley of Lyonsdale, who moved back to the county to retire.
“It was safe long before these [gun] laws came in and it will be safe long after,” gun shop owner and National Rifle Association safety trainer Patrick Morse of New Bremen said.
Mr. Morse listed the federal regulations Lewis County residents would still follow even if it became a Sanctuary County, noting, “as you can see gun owners are already heavily regulated and enough is enough.”
Mr. Morse and two other speakers spoke specifically against the N.Y. SAFE Act, the gun storage law enacted last year and the Red Flag law put into place at the end of the year.
Resolutions passed by 52 of the 62 counties in New York state against the New York SAFE Act “went ignored” by the state, he said, and a large number of gun laws have been proposed this year as well.
After citing Centers for Disease Control & Prevention statistics about gun violence, including the high rate of gun violence in the U.S. compared to other high-income countries, gun suicides, the number of children shot annually and women shot by domestic partners nationally, Mrs. Bentley said the cost of gun violence in the country is $229 million annually.
“I feel that if the petition is allowed to pass, we will become statistics here in Lewis County,” she said.
Noting that her husband is a hunter who never complains about not being able to buy the guns he wants, Mrs. Mooney said gun rights were “number one,” about protecting children.
“You can go to Mississippi where not only are the gun laws very weak but the homicide and suicide rates are the highest in the nation,” she said.
Sheriff Michael Carpinelli ended the public session railing against Albany and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and making clear where his allegiance lies.
“We’ve all been to Albany and I want you to know the truth. It’s not good. And I want them to tell you the truth. They’re against you down there. They don’t want to listen to upstate New York,” he said, addressing the crowd. “Tonight, I support everybody in this room, but I absolutely support the Constitution, the oath that I took. I’ll support that way before I support the state, way before I’ll support the county constitution or any other constitution.”
After the meeting, District 2 Legislator Randy Lachausse said his “mind was made up” even before the meeting because so many of his constituents reached out and told him what they thought.
“The people gave a very passionate presentation and I support them fully,” he said, adding the state gun laws were made without consultation with either the “people that have to abide by or implement these laws,” which he finds unacceptable.
Mr. Lachausse and District 4 Legislator Ian Gilbert both said they believe some action will have to be taken as a result of the effort the group had shown.
The likely next step in the process is to examine the legality of the proposal and eventually for it to be brought to the Finanance and Rules Committee for discussion.