CANTON — Restrictions that have been placed on St. Lawrence County pistol permit license holders by former County Judge Jerome J. Richards can be lifted under a memorandum issued by an acting pistol licensing officer.
In 2009, Judge Richards, who retired late last year, started placing what were identified as outdoor sportsman restrictions on pistol licenses that were issued, County Attorney Stephen D. Button said.
“This was somewhat unique,” he said. “It is my understanding that there are not many counties, certainly not in the north country, that place any type of restrictions on every carry-concealed licenses that are issued within the county.”
Those outdoor sportsman restrictions limited a valid pistol license holder from taking their pistol, even though it was licensed, anywhere other than to and from a hunting location or for berry picking or potentially a range, Mr. Button said.
But on Jan. 2, Hamilton County Court Judge Tatiana Coffinger, one of several out-of-county judges appointed to fill the void left by Judge Richards’ retirement, filed a memorandum with the County Clerk’s office that lays out ways to lift those restrictions.
However, there are other modifications or amendments that were put into place.
Judge Coffinger wrote that her modifications and amendments came following a meeting with the stakeholders involved with pistol permit licensing and amendments in the county and that her policies will remain in effect for the year 2020 or until otherwise modified.
In order for current St. Lawrence County pistol permit holders with restrictions to apply for removal of the restrictions, they must have had the current permit with restrictions for a period of one year or more; must not have had any suspensions or revocations within the last 10 years; must complete the NRA approved Pistol Safety Course (or a Type 1 classroom safety course provided by a Sheriff’s Department) within the previous five years of this application for review; and must complete the application review form.
But through new amendments, co-registration of any and all pistols will only be allowed for spouses residing in the same household, provided they both have current pistol permits; an adult child residing in the same household as a parent; no more than two people can be co-registered to the same pistol and both must be residents of the same address.
“Based upon Article 400 of the state Penal Law, any resident of St. Lawrence County who otherwise qualifies following a required background investigation and has completed a NRA approved Pistol Safety Course (or a Type 1 classroom safety course provided by a Sheriff’s Department) completed within five years PRIOR to the application shall be entitled to a pistol permit without restrictions,” the memorandum states, with the emphasis on “prior.” “Applicants who fail to complete the NRA approved course within five years PRIOR to the application may still be entitled to a pistol permit with restrictions for hunting and target shooting only. All applicants are encouraged to take the NRA approved course before submitting the application for a new permit.”
Active duty or retired law enforcement or military personnel who have had firearms training are exempt from the course requirement with proper documentation.
The courses are not provided by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, but Mr. Button said the Board of Legislators, which had taken a stance against Judge Richards’s restrictions, is exploring taking up the issue and potentially exploring classes that the sheriff’s office may be able to provide.
“This obviously can impact thousands of licenses that have been issued. I don’t have the exact number but I have anecdotally been told that it could impact more than 10,000 licenses in St. Lawrence County. In November, Mr. Button traveled to Washington D. C. for oral arguments in a U.S. Supreme Court case known as New York City against the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.
The case involved a group of licensed individuals who alleged that a new restriction on their ability to travel with their guns, except for seven designated locations, was an infringement on their Second Amendment rights.
Mr. Button acted as a legal adviser on the State of New York Law associated with licensure, identifying other areas within the state in which limitations may be placed. Seventeen states, led by the state of Louisiana, filed an amicus brief in support of the efforts of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.
A decision is expected in May or June, he said.
“The real concern for New York City and New York State was that the Supreme Court might utilize this to not only expand the rights, but limit what local governments could determine was an appropriate restriction on gun possession and in addition potentially expand what is called the carry-conceal reciprocity theory or that each state must grant full reciprocity to the licensure practice of other states,” Mr. Button said. “That becomes a problem for a state like New York when a state like Vermont with no restriction and no licensure process potentially raises an issue coming across the Vermont border possessing a firearm.
“This issue cuts to the heart of the Second Amendment issue,” he said. “We now know that it is an individual right. How far does that individual right extend and does it extend out of the home?”