LOWVILLE — A trend in pro-Second Amendment activism nationwide that exists to varying degrees in 19 states has made its way to Lewis County, where a group of people organized through social media are moving fast to have their interests served.
Since Jan. 4, a Facebook page called “Lewis County and Towns 2A Sanctuary,” an offshoot of “Oneida County and Towns 2A Sanctuary,” has gained over 2,100 members and its founder, Lawrence Hoffert, has been reaching out to “like-minded people” throughout the county to right what they see as wrongs against the Second Amendment.
Group member and activist Beau Bailey said Mr. Hoffert and others wanted to start their own social media initiative to limit “political battles” and avoid arguments after noticing inflammatory posts on the Oneida page that didn’t add to the discussion of protecting gun rights.
As a result of the group that gathered around the page, a petition seeking the creation of a local law prohibiting the enforcement of state gun control laws seen as “unconstitutional” by the group has been circulating since about Jan. 14.
“There’s a lot of like-minded people trying to reach everyone we can,” Mr. Bailey said, “Word is still spreading.”
On Saturday, a “mass signing” event promoted on social media and around the county with flyers was held at seven local businesses.
Referring to the “God given right to bear arms” as being under attack by “unconstitutional” laws, the flyer specifically used the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, known as the NY SAFE Act, as an example. The act was created in response to two mass shootings: one at Sandy Hook Elementary School and a second in Webster, Monroe County.
Firearm shop owner and National Rifle Association pistol permit trainer Patrick Morse said the SAFE Act was the “exact catalyst” for counties like Lewis to want to become “sanctuaries” against the implementation of laws the group sees as invalid by the state.
Mr. Morse will be presenting the petition and a draft of the proposed local law to make the county a Second Amendment sanctuary to the Board of Legislators on Feb. 4 at 5 p.m.
“We’re sick and tired of being on the defensive,” Mr. Morse said, “We’re tired of being treated like criminals by edicts handed down with no input from the people they impact.”
Citing the eight gun laws passed in the state last year and claiming state legislators have “a docket full this year,” Mr. Morse said, “They’re not going to stop, but enough is enough.”
“Local governments have the legal authority to refuse to cooperate with state and federal firearm laws that violate those rights and to proclaim a Second Amendment Sanctuary for law-abiding citizens,” the proposed local law states, declaring the title for Lewis County.
The law would prohibit any county employee, including all “peace officers,” from enforcing “any unlawful” gun law or to use county funds or assets to enforce laws “relating to an unlawful act” in connection with firearms.
The definition of “unlawful act” in the proposed law is “any state act, law, order, rule, or regulation” which bans, registers or limits “the lawful use of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition.”
The only limitations accepted by the proposed local law are those “pursuant to federal law,” which are considerably less strict than provisions in New York state law.
Although infractions of this local law would be considered violations, the fine could be between $2,000 and $4,000 and could subject the person to being sued in the State Supreme Court.
People with felony convictions are prohibited under federal law are not covered by the Sanctuary law.
According to the proposed law, people who want to voluntarily register their weapons or apply for a concealed carry permit would still be allowed to do so, even though it would not be required.
Mr. Morse said “sanctuary cities,” which are not only cities but often counties or entire states, were introduced by Democrats with regard to immigration issues, so Republicans concerned for their Second Amendment rights decided to employ the same tool.
One major difference between immigration “sanctuary” areas and the one proposed for Lewis County is that in the former, municipalities refuse to cooperate with the federal government while locally the proposed gun sanctuary law refuses cooperation with state laws but allows compliance to federal laws.
Not everyone in the county, however, feels the Second Amendment is under threat or supports the Second Amendment Sanctuary County,
“I hunt and I can go anywhere to buy any hunting gun I want and the ammunition I want and there’s no problem,” said Daniel Rocker, a member of Indivisible Lowville, “I always wanted an AR-15 [assault rifle]. I was in the military and I loved my M16, but it’s ok. I don’t need it. It’s worth not having one to try and lower the gun violence. I don’t need it to hunt.”
Indivisible Lowville is a progressive organization that hosted two gun forums in 2018.
“The false sense of urgency to ‘rescue guns’ is only driven by paranoia,” said Indivisible co-leader Emily Lyndaker, “More unnecessary gun ‘rights’ should never take precedence over the most vulnerable citizens of our community. ‘All lives’ are supposed to matter right?”
Ms. Lyndaker suggested the group working toward the sanctuary law should instead work on improvements for the SAFE Act to propose.
Currently, only Wyoming County in Western New York is a Second Amendment Sanctuary County in the state.
About 37 businesses around Lewis County will continue to post copies of the petition to collect signatures until Friday.