Just one year ago, my Wednesday column was a hodgepodge of unfinished columns on various topics. If you're interested, it was published February 20, 2019, under the title "Random thoughts from the draft file." One of my random thoughts then was a paragraph wondering about Chenango County becoming a sanctuary from the 2013 NYS SAFE Act.
Last year when I wrote about the SAFE Act sanctuary, it was an off the cuff remark, which is why it was an unfinished column then. However, this topic is getting much more attention statewide lately with some upstate counties giving serious consideration to what was once a "random thought."
Those on the left taught us about Sanctuary Cities. Because they weren't happy with federal law officers enforcing immigration laws, they decided to ignore the rules and do everything to defy what they consider unjust laws. The problem is the US government is now pushing back against the sanctuaries, which flout the law. Some of that push-back is making life miserable for traveling New Yorkers.
A few weeks ago, I was one of many who attended a 2A or 2nd Amendment Rally in Norwich. The people in that crowded American Legion Hall were all concerned, law-abiding citizens who had their reasons for attending. Forgive me for speaking for them, but they can pretty much be summed up as follows.
There were the sporting shooters; these are the hunters, gun club members, and competitive shooters, along with with some hobbyists who enjoy plinking—all legal activities.
Some of the concerned people there know there may come a time a firearm might be needed to defend themselves or a loved one. This could be caused by their proximity to wild animals or an encounter with a wild human criminal—all legal reasons.
And finally, there were firearms collectors. More than one person in that crowd purchased firearms for the collector value, the historical significance, or even an investment—all legal reasons.
What brought these people together was the fear their Constitutional rights will be legislated into oblivion by politicians who live in urban areas. Those are areas where hunting is impossible, and so is owning or possessing certain firearms.
Downstate legislators tell us we don't need to hunt or defend ourselves. We've heard "call 911" if you need help. In urban areas of our state, law enforcement officers are abundant and quick to respond. In moste of rural upstate New York however, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away (sarcasm).
Just a year ago, few among us would have hoped criminals would have their freedom put ahead of the safety of citizens and the police. However, there were enough legislators who had those hopes, and they convinced other lawmakers to enact the Bail Reform statutes we endure today. That's why law-abiding people are gathering with concerns about their right to bear arms. They don't want more knee-jerk laws enacted that force them to choose between moving away from their home state or becoming a felon by staying.
Most at that Legion Hall gathering hoped to convince our local elected officials to declare Chenango County a Sanctuary from the SAFE Act, and any new restrictive gun laws. Such a symbolic resolution adopted by our Board of Supervisors, and from counties all across the state, would undoubtedly send a strong message to state legislators that we aren't happy, but only a few in Albany would even care. However, grassroots displeasure with Bail Reform is currently haunting those who voted in favor, and revisions are currently in discussion.
We must also consider what our vindictive governor would contemplate doing to a county sheriff or district attorney who openly declared the SAFE Act void. As a reminder, the governor has the authority to remove any duly elected sheriff or DA.
There are some remedies to this issue. First, and the most challenging to accomplish is vote out of office the gun grabbers who insist "common sense" is the reason for new laws. Not one law written under the guise of safety or common sense has kept guns away from criminals. If you doubt that, follow the Syracuse news for a few nights. The only people who are ever affected by these laws are honest citizens.
Another remedy is a federal lawsuit challenging restrictive gun laws that might make its way to the firearms friendly US Supreme Court. New York City tried to back away from one of those restrictive lawsuits and lost. Another recent lawsuit in Rockland County insists New York be a Constitutional Carry state, not an "as permitted to carry" state.
A final, clever way to fight back is with the NYS Penal Law itself. The very same book that includes the SAFE Act also includes on its first page, Penal Law Section 5, which states; "The general rule that a penal statute is to be strictly construed does not apply…, but the provisions herein must be construed according to the fair import of their terms to promote justice and effect the objects of the law." Those are the magic words that give police officers and prosecutors the discretion NOT to arrest and NOT prosecute a person in the spirit of being fair and in the interest of justice.
Which would you rather have, a sheriff or DA who makes a big splash defying the law or a quiet professional who does not apply strict enforcement, but considers each case, one by one, and declines to press charges in the interest of justice by following Penal Law Section 5?