Guns rights activists in the north country want local lawmakers to take up their campaign against state laws regulating firearms.
At the heart of their grievance is the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013. This legislation was passed in the middle of the night and offered few opportunities for residents to give their input.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo invoked a message of necessity, which allowed members of the state Assembly and Senate to bypass the three-day waiting period to vote on bills. Opponents have not forgotten how they were ignored by the people who are supposed to represent them.
And their frustration with how state legislators are crafting new gun laws has intensified over the past seven years. They want local governments to tell elected officials in Albany what they can do with their growing list of regulations.
Gun owners have made their presence known since the beginning of the year in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. They’ve asked legislators to create what are called Second Amendment Sanctuaries.
Suggested ordinances creating such entities would essentially prohibit police officers from enforcing state gun laws they deemed to violate the U.S. Constitution. This would let residents live according to policies more consistent with their understanding of gun rights enshrined in the document.
Members of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators passed a resolution Tuesday affirming their support for the Second Amendment. They expressed concern over state laws that allow for firearms to be seized “without due process” and that provide law enforcement agencies with information about gun owners “without a warrant or probable cause of the commission of a crime …”
This is the furthest that any of the three county boards advanced on the promptings of gun rights activists. It obviously falls short of what they wanted, which was to establish limits on how state firearm laws would be enforced within a specific jurisdiction.
We understand the sentiments expressed by Second Amendment advocates. We also sympathize with their sense of helplessness when it comes to having their voices heard in the state Legislature.
But legislators in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties have been wise to stop short of creating Second Amendment Sanctuaries. Such a move would very likely not survive a legal challenge. So they would end up spending a lot of money defending a local law ultimately deemed illegal by a court.
St. Lawrence Sheriff Brooks J. Bigwarfe and Jefferson County Sheriff Colleen M. O’Neill made the same point about this movement, and it’s a valid one. Local police departments cannot pick and choose which laws they want to enforce.
Some critics have countered that people in law enforcement often use their discretion in moving forward with a particular criminal citation. While this is true, there is a difference in what local gun rights activists want.
A police officer has the leeway of whether to write a ticket for speeding or merely issue a warning. But a Second Amendment Sanctuary would take this discretion out of their hands. The objective is to establish a jurisdiction where state gun laws they deem to violate the Constitution will not be enforced — no ifs, ands or buts.
This doesn’t mean that local gun rights activists have no outlet for their frustration. They should channel their grievances in ways that will capture the attention of state legislators. By attracting as many like-minded people as possible, they’re sure to get noticed in Albany and be able to press their case against these egregious regulations.