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Upstate NY historical war reenactments canceled amid confusion over gun laws

Gov. Hochul (KC Kratt/WikiCommons)

Several historical war reenactments have been canceled in Upstate New York amid confusion over the state’s gun laws.

The Observer-Dispatch reports Living History Weekend, scheduled to take place last week in Herkimer County, was axed after local Sheriff Scott Scherrer said attorneys advised him that reenactors’ muskets could violate a new gun control law that took effect Sept. 1. Among other things, the law prohibits carrying weapons in “sensitive locations” such as public parks, museums, and sports fields, where many reenactments of American battles often take place.

“It would be illegal, according to the letter of the governor’s law,” Scherrer told the Utica newspaper.

However, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said such events would not be illegal.

“These laws allow historical re-enactments to occur, and there should be no concern otherwise,” Hochul told the New York Post in a statement. “We will work with legislators and local law enforcement to ensure these events can proceed as they have for centuries. In the meantime, individuals who have lawfully participated in reenactments should continue to do so.”

The law has been confusing for gun owners, affecting everything from gun shows to applications for firearm permits.

Rochester lawyer Sheldon Boyce Jr., who specializes in Second Amendment law, told the Post that he hasn’t seen any specifications in the new law’s language for historical events, which revisit the American Revolution, Civil War and other U.S. conflicts. Real ammunition is not used in reenactments but the muskets fall under the same law, leading some reenactors to worry they could be arrested for participating.

“Two weeks ago, we started getting issues from units out of state and in the state who were afraid if they came and brought weapons with them — muskets — that they’d be charged with a felony,” a reenactment organizer told WRGB.

Other historical reenactments that have been canceled reportedly included the Rogers Island Military Camp reenactment event at Fort Edward in Washington County and a Civil War reenactment event in Allegany County, but a reenactment of the Battle of Plattsburgh went on as scheduled earlier this month when local police said they wouldn’t charge anyone involved.

Organizers say they hope to get better clarification soon, especially since 2025 will mark 250 years since the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

“We hope to resume this in the near future. Hopefully, the gun laws, the interpretation gets corrected,” Rogers Island Development Alliance President Edward Carpenter told WRGB. “It’s coming up on the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, so we need to get this straight so all these events can take place.”


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