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More NY sheriffs vow to basically not enforce new gun law

A concealed handgun. (Dreamstime/TNS)
October 11, 2022

In the face of new state-level measures to limit citizens from carrying firearms, a growing number of sheriffs throughout the state of New York are saying they simply won’t make much of an effort to enforce the new restrictions.

This spring, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision striking down a New York law against concealed carrying and broadly overturned state laws that required would-be gun carriers to demonstrate a “proper-cause” to carry their firearms. The court’s ruling essentially required states to provide objective criteria for when and where they could carry a firearm, rather than showing the type of “proper-cause” claim that would be up to the subjective determination of government officials.

New York state lawmakers sought to overcome this Supreme Court ruling by broadly listing most public places as explicitly off-limits to carry firearms and establishing a legal presumption that any church, private business or residences also prohibits firearms unless they specifically state otherwise.

On Thursday, a federal judge placed a temporary restraining order preventing New York’s new restrictions from going into effect. Even as the state vowed to appeal the judge’s decision, the New York Times reported several sheriffs throughout the state were already vowing to take no additional steps to enforce the new gun restrictions.

New Wayne County Sheriff Robert Milby was among the group of sheriffs, primarily in upstate New York, who said they wouldn’t make much effort to enforce the new restrictions.

“If anyone thinks we’re going to go out and take a proactive stance against this, that’s not going to happen,” Milby told the New York Times.

It’s not entirely clear what measures some sheriffs will go to avoid enforcing new gun laws.

Richard Giardino, a Republican sheriff in Fulton County, said, “I have to enforce it because I swore to uphold the laws, but I can use as much discretion as I want.”

“If someone intentionally flouts the law, then they’re going to be handled one way,” Giardino said. “But if someone was unaware that the rules have changed, then we’re not going to charge someone with a felony because they went into their barbershop with their carry concealed.”

“We will take the complaint, but it will go to the bottom of my stack,” Niagara County Sheriff Mike Filicetti told the New York Post. “There will be no arrests made without my authorization and it’s a very, very low priority for me.”

This lax approach to enforcing new laws is similar to approaches many sheriffs have vowed to take around the country.

In the face of a wave of potential new gun control measures, 91 of 95 counties in Virginia passed resolutions declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuary” locations and vowed to broadly deprioritize the enforcement of new gun laws. One Virginia sheriff even proposed deputizing thousands of gun owners in his jurisdiction to extend to those civilians whatever law enforcement exemptions would be included in any new laws.

Proponents of the new gun laws in New York criticized the group of sheriffs vowing lax enforcement.

State Senator Zellnor Myrie, a Democrat who voted for the bill, noted the sheriffs vowing to only loosely enforce the gun laws also often complain about crime throughout the state, suggesting the two positions are inconsistent.

“To turn around and say, ‘For the laws that we don’t like, or we may disagree with politically, we will refuse to enforce,’ to me is the height of hypocrisy,” Myrie told the New York Times.

John Feinblatt, the president of the gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety told the New York Times that these sheriffs not only risked harming the general public but also “endangering their colleagues in law enforcement.”

David Pucino, the deputy chief counsel at Giffords Law Center — another gun control advocacy group — told The New York Times that it’s not appropriate for law enforcement officials to announce their positions on whether they will enforce the law.

“The statements that we’ve been seeing here are ideological statements,” Pucino. “And that’s not an appropriate basis for a sheriff to enforce or not enforce laws.”