Amendment may allow guns in county government buildings
Every American, as stated in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, has the right to bear arms. Within this right includes the right to carry a concealed firearm in New York State.
On Tuesday, the Wyoming County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on whether to amend Local Law No. 3 of the year 2013 – A local law banning possession of weapons in Wyoming County buildings.
As the law stands right now, no persons may carry a concealed weapon into a county government building with the exception of police officer or peace officer at defined in the New York State Criminal Procedure Law.
The proposed amendment would now include: A person licensed by New York State Penal law 400(2)(f) to have and carry a concealed weapon may carry a concealed weapon in a building where such carry is not prohibited by Federal or New York State law, rule or regulation – in Section 3: Exclusions, of the 2013 amended law.
Why the proposed change in the law?
“The United States is a democratic society,” said Wyoming County Board of Supervisors Chairman Doug Berwanger. “Part of that is, the common person has a right to approach their elected officials to change regulations.
“Two members of S.C.O.P.E (Shooters Committee on Political Education) asked to be put on the agenda to discuss the local law and the Board of Supervisors would entertain anyone for any issue they have.”
“I am truly blessed to live in a country as safe as safe as I do,” said S.C.O.P.E member David Ricketson, of Varysburg. “The American I grew up in is not the same America today. It seems like once a week we hear about a person doing harm to someone they never met. An evil person will not pay attention to a posted concealed carry sign, while a permit holder will to a fault.”
Ricketson likened carrying a firearm to any number of things used for protection such as a hard hat and safety vest.
For him, a handgun is just another one of those things and he cited Frederick Douglass in part: “A man's rights rest in three boxes. The ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box…”
Robert Kelly, of Middlebury, opposes the amendment. He served four years in intelligence and survelience in the Air Force during the Korean War. Based on his experiences, he is convinced of the potential peril of, and absence of benefits to, the proposed amendment when, as he says, too many guns get into too many hands.
“I applaud the county’s decision to prohibit guns in county buildings,” Kelly said. “I urge the board to broaden this prohibition. I urge the board to reject appeals that weaken the positive.”
Before the amendment was even presented to the board, the Safety Committee agreed to form a subcommittee, which included members of S.C.O.P.E., Wyoming County Sheriff Gregory Rudolph, former Wyoming County Judge Mark Dadd, and Chairman of the Safety Committee James Copeland. Beginning in February, the subcommittee reviewed the information and decided to add the exclusion.
“The Board of Supervisors is a county government and we represent the people of the county. This is a democracy and we did due diligence. We have received 30 emails in favor of the change and no negative responses.”
However, those who voiced their opposition to the law on Tuesday, cite safety concerns of allowing guns in buildings such as the hospital and Mental Health Department. However, New York State regulations list these buildings and offices as places off-limits even with a permit/license and allow for county governments to use a home rule option.
Places off-limits include:
• Courthouses (NYS Office of Court Administration) Federal law bans firearms in federal courthouses and U.S. attorney offices except for law enforcement personnel on official business;
• Certain cities and all counties may, under home rule options, ban firearms from their governmental buildings;
• (265.01a) On school grounds which include colleges and universities (exceptions: the forestry lands, wherever located, owned and maintained by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and forestry or on a school bus as defined in section 142 of the V&T law without the written authorization of such education institution)
According to the Department of Environmental Control and NY Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, firearms are banned on the properties they control except for hunting in season.
Firearms may be possessed on public campgrounds only during the spring and fall hunting seasons.
The federal government’s rules governing conceal carry holders has an even longer off-limits list:
• Federal courthouses;
• Federal buildings;
• Any building owned, leased or rented by the federal government;
• Federal prisons;
• Army Corps of Engineers;
• National cemeteries;
• Military bases;
• Rented offices;
• Post Office;
• Bureau of Land Management;
• Indian reservations
Additionally, the State controls the carrying of firearms in the National Forests in their state.
If the amendment were to pass, there are two county government buildings that would be directly affected – the Government Center, Main Street, and the Department of Motor Vehicles, both in Warsaw. Should the board vote in favor of the law, both state and federal regulations supersede county law and would still list many of the county’s government buildings as off-limits to licensed gun owners.
“You unanimously approved the law which kept firearms out of public buildings,” said Warsaw resident Suzanne Cogan. “I don’t understand why the change. We have places with families and children. I think it’s a dangerous position to allow firearms in any store. I fear for our people and it seems like we’ve returned to the wild West. How can we get to feeling safe like we were in the ’50s and ’60s?”
The law first went into effect in 1994 following an incident at the Department of Social Services building. According to Berwanger, a person went into the building and dumped gas all over the floor and was going to light it.
“Thankfully for the quick response of emergency personnel, the person was caught and he didn’t light the gas,” he said. “That incident prompted the law.”
However, a group of citizens asked to amend the law and the board decided to take a look and hold a hearing to get the public’s reaction. If the people are agreeable to a change, the board will change it.
“I feel that it’s every Americans right to own and bear arms,” said Karl Drasgow, of Orangeville. “There’s no reason for them not to in public buildings. While its a cop’s job to respond to and investigate crimes, it’s each persons own responsibility to protect themselves.
"The Constitution states that you can’t discriminate, and I feel you are discriminating against Americans by not letting them bear arms in a public buildings. I think it’s silly to make them keep it in their vehicle, which poses a different safety issue.”
Berwanger says people will feel they can and are able to exercise their rights under gun ownership under the Second Amendment. The change in Local Law No. 11 of 1994 and amended by Local Law No. 3 of the year 2013 would further that right of theirs.
However, in a nine-to-seven split, the board opted to reserve the vote and keep the record open until its September board meeting.
To read the entirety of Local Law 11 1994, the amendment to Local Law 11 of 1994 2013, or a copy of the proposed law, click here.