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Bill Hilts Jr.: New gun laws will impact shooting sports

Whether you enjoy hunting, shooting sports like skeet, trap, 5-Stand, sporting clays, novelty shoots at different yardages, or some good old-fashioned target plinking in your backyard (if you have the property for it) or range, you should pay attention to what’s happening in Albany.

The next round of legislative action focused on firearms is continuing to affect the law-abiding gun owner, ultimately impacting shooting sports one “shot” at a time.

With eight gun bills already approved by both houses and waiting for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature, the onslaught continues as politicians from around New York City push their big-city ideologies on upstate. With one party controlling both the Senate and the Assembly, the previous checks and balances that were in place have collapsed, in part because of the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE Act) that was passed under the cover of darkness in 2013.

It was a catch-22 situation when some Republicans jumped ship and voted to support the first SAFE Act over the objections of the outdoors community. The pro-gun movement through shooting clubs, sportsmen’s groups and Second Amendment supporters pushed hard to replace the politicians who supported the SAFE Act. Because those people are no longer in power, the opposing party was able to gain the majority in the last election in the Senate. Many of the bills we are seeing now have been discussed and supported in the past, but couldn’t get beyond the Assembly. That’s likely over.

Rod Watson: Proposed gun bill threatens more than 2nd Amendment

In the last two weeks, here’s a thumbnail of what has been passed by both houses and is waiting for the governor’s signature:

  • The Red Flag Bill muddies the existing reporting process of contacting law enforcement if someone is concerned that an individual may be a danger to one’s self or to others, and let them investigate. The new bill allows for family members, school administrators and others to petition the court and report someone who may be a threat, placing the burden on the accused to prove that one is not a danger. And if you can’t convince the court otherwise, you will lose your firearms. There is no provision in the law that penalizes anyone for wrongly accusing someone.
  • A 30-day waiting period to receive clearance to purchase a gun if there is a delay in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It was three days. Once you apply, it’s good for 30 days. Does that mean you have less than 24 hours to pick up your firearm if the approval process takes 30 days? What happens if you miss your window of opportunity? So many different situations could account for a delay, and it’s not always a bad thing. But questions remain.
  • A bill that bans teachers from carrying any firearm in a school. Currently, schools could make the decision to allow teachers or other personnel to carry firearms if properly licensed. Under the new law, only law enforcement, school resource officers or security personnel would be allowed to carry. That bill could tie into proposed Bill A1007, which would prohibit all New York schools from offering firearms or air guns shooting programs.

The current push is to do away with gun raffles. Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon of Brooklyn has sponsored Assembly Bill A01413 that would outlaw gun raffles.

“Firearms should not be raffled off in this manner. Firearm-related violence is a significant public health and safety problem and weapons should not be given away in games of chance,” states the proposed bill. At least 25 other members of the Assembly have signed the bill, which includes alcohol in the proposed legislation.

The same restrictions and requirements for purchasing a firearm are in place when someone wins a gun, including minimum age requirements and background checks. They don’t just walk away with it. A winner does not have to take possession of a gun in many cases, being given the option of a cash stipend. Do politicians supporting this bill really think there are no background checks or other safeguards?

"This is just another wrongheaded unnecessary law from downstate,” says Jeff Jondle, president of the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs. “Like the last six or eight laws that have been passed. Most of the volunteer fire companies, service clubs and conservation clubs like to use gun raffles for fundraising in support of their community activities. It shows how completely out of touch the Albany crowd is with our lives and communities upstate.

“This is just more damage and hardship for groups who support our communities and provide social activities, entertainment and safety training options for us. The negative impacts on this fundraising must be made up somehow, either through a reduction in services and programs or though initiating or increasing fees. They either don't know or don't care about the effects this may have to people and groups here.”

The bill currently sits in the Racing and Wagering Committee in the Assembly.

Proposed bills from Sen. Kevin Parker from Brooklyn would require pistol permit applicants to give social media information for the last three years to investigators performing background checks and another that would require $1 million liability insurance for all gun owners. He also would like to place additional restrictions on long guns such as rifles and shotguns, which could affect anyone trying to purchase a new hunting rifle, skeet or trap gun, or a muzzleloader for a black powder shooting competition as but a few examples.

Seeking social media information is new. Parker, incidentally, was recently in the hot seat after his social media proposal was released when he told a GOP spokeswoman to “kill yourself” on Twitter. Would that bar him from owning a gun? Using social media as a barometer on whether somebody is mentally fit enough to own a gun is a slippery slope. It’s also very scary. Wording in the law is very general, which means it is possible to use any reason to deny gun ownership. Passing the law first and figuring out things later is not the way to produce good legislation.

There also is discussion of creating an ammunition database, microstamping ammunition (even though the technology doesn’t exist), gun storage requirements in the home, all of which would be requirements for the law-abiding gun owner and shooting sports enthusiast.

If these bills concern you, write or call your local representatives.

The bottom line is that politicians will tell you that these bills are in the interest of safety. However, common sense should dictate that it’s much more than that. Members of the hunting fraternity, as well as the shooting sports community, should express their concerns because of the impact that these bills will have on the future of these outdoor pastimes.

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