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Bill aims to exempt Amish from handgun permit photo rule

ALBANY – They might not have hired lobbyists in Albany pushing their causes, but members of Amish, Mennonite and potentially other religious sects have gotten themselves an unusual carve out in a new bill: the ability to get a handgun license without submitting a photograph.

A measure by Sen. Catharine Young, an Olean Republican whose sprawling district includes a number of Amish communities, would drop the handgun application rule requiring submission of a photograph for people who are members members of an “established religious sect.’’

The legislation, introduced Wednesday, provides an exemption for the photo ID for people who are members of religions whose “tenants of which prohibit the members from submitting to a photo.’’

“Currently, members of the Amish and Mennonite communities are unable to possess pistols or revolvers in New York without violating the tenants of their religion by submitting to the taking of a photograph which would also be used for identification purposes,’’ states a legislative memo Young submitted in explaining the need for the new bill.

The measure covers people in “established religious sects” who embrace “a long-standing commitment of non-involvement in the matters of established government practices and is conscientiously opposed” to submitting a photograph in order to obtain a handgun permit,’’ the memo states. Those covered by the bill would, instead, have to submit a written affidavit stating that they hold such religious beliefs.

Young said the bill is consistent with other state and federal laws recognizing the “non-involvement” in government practices by Amish and Mennonites, including exemptions from certain labor rules or building code requirements for their community schoolhouses.

Besides being a member of a "recognized religious sect,'' photographs won't be required if those religious organizations "for a substantial number of years" have required members to "abstain from the submission of photographs or photographic images.'' The only religious groups named in the legislative memo are Amish and Mennonites.

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