To the Editor:
As elected officials, you of all people do not have the luxury of deciding which laws you will uphold and which you will ignore, much less willfully and publicly flaunt as a partisan political stunt.
If you adopt this scofflaw “gun sanctuary” ordinance, you will be sued for failure to uphold New York State laws – laws that you are free to challenge in court, but laws that you cannot selectively ignore or flaunt to the detriment of the rule of law, to the loss the trust that has been placed in you, or to the breach of your oath of office.
In his recent Letter to the Editor, Mr. Anderson suggested that “arguably the most important amendments in the Bill of Rights are the first and second”. He was half right.
Clearly, the First Amendment, which guarantees our inalienable rights or basic freedoms, distinguishes a democratic nation like the United States from – as Jefferson believed in 1776 – the King of Great Britain. It is, in fact, the direct philosophical link to the Declaration of Independence.
I tend to believe that the majority of the U.S. citizenry – namely women – would argue that the 19th Amendment (Women’s Suffrage) has an edge on the Second. It appears we need to be reminded that James Madison’s Bill of Rights (ratified by the States in 1791) became part of the Constitution in a nation governed by white male property owners.
African-Americans might object to Mr. Anderson’s assertions about the Second Amendment by citing the importance of the Civil War Amendments – Amendments Thirteen/Abolition of Slavery, Fourteen/Incorporation or application of the Bill of Rights to States and Fifteen/Black Suffrage.
I would argue that universal application of equal protection of the law is the core foundation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, i.e., the essence of our democracy.
The old adage, that you can determine if a nation is a democracy by checking the prisons for political prisoners, would seem to support the case for Amendments Four, Five and Six. Of course, maybe I am overstating the significance of protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to due process of law and the assurance of a public trial by an impartial jury.
The doctrine of Judicial Review was established by the Marshal Court in Marbury v. Madison (1803) and, consequently, for over two centuries, laws passed by a Legislative Branch and actions by an Executive Branch have been subject to a Court review
of their constitutionality.
With regard to the Second Amendment, I would suggest that District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) is the most compelling case to review because the majority opinion was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, who is considered one of the more influential “originalists” and “textualists” in the history of the Supreme Court.
The Court ruled that the District of Columbia could not ban handguns and it protected an individual’s right to possess a firearm when not in the militia because the term “militia” was meant (by Madison, according to Scalia)) to refer to “the body of all citizens”.
However, Justice Scalia also wrote: “The right (to possess firearms) is not unlimited, it is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The Court also recognized “the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons”.
It is undeniable that the rights of citizens protected under the umbrella of the Second Amendment may be limited – constitutionally – by a Legislative Branch of Government. The manner to redress a grievance against what is arguably a flawed piece of legislation (the Safe Act) is best carried out in the voting booth or in the courts.
The proposal to make Otsego County a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” is just as flawed as Mr. Anderson’s original and grossly overstated assertion about the importance of the Second Amendment. As a lifelong gun owner, I believe this hyper focus on the Second Amendment is tantamount to intellectual tomfoolery.
ONEONTA – A Facebook Group aimed at making Otsego County a “Sanctuary for the Second Amendment” is picking up momentum.
On Dec. 20, an active hunter and gun owner, Kaleb White of Oneonta, created the “2A Otsego County Sanctuary Group” on the popular social media platform.
In just over a week, more than 800 people joined the group, including county Rep. Rick Brockway, R-Laurens.
White is circulating several petitions – at Losie’s Gun Shop and Sportman Adventures, and elsewhere.
And on Feb. 5, with Brockway’s support, he plans to ask the county Board of Representatives to designate Otsego a “sanctuary county.”
Meanwhile, Brockway, who will be sworn in on Jan. 2, is seeking to line up other board members behind the idea. So far, only one other Upstate county – Wyoming, south of Batavia – is considering a “sanctuary” policy.
White took action after learning all but six counties in Virginia have or plan to declare themselves “sanctuaries,” exempt from gun-control laws.
The “sanctuary” movement there erupted after Gov. Ralph Northam, with the support of a newly elected Democratic General Assembly, vowed to toughen gun laws.
“In just a matter of days, almost the entire state became a Second Amendment sanctuary,” White said.
The drive picks up on “sanctuary cities” movement, where 560 cities, counties and states nationally have declared they will not cooperate with the federal government in enforcing immigration laws.
Where White and others say Virginia may decide to seize legally owned guns, members of the new Virginia majority have been talking about “commonsense gun legislation.”
To the south of Oneonta, a “Delaware County 2A Sanctuary” Facebook page was created Dec. 20, and White heard about it from relatives there.
He spoke with T.J. Conant, who launched the Delaware page. “They have gained 1,939 members since December 20,” he was told. “It’s been absolutely taking off there.”
He said, “Nobody in Otsego County was doing it, so I said I would be willing to get it off the ground.”
With Conant’s help, the Oneontan launched the Otsego County page, two days before Christmas.
Tuesday, Dec. 31, membership rose from 783 in the morning to 826 in the afternoon.
“I’m amazed at the amount of support,” said White.
“I would like to go to the county board with 6,000 signatures minimum,” he continued. “That’s 1 percent of the county population. The more signatures we get, the easier it will be to bring it in front of the county board and to say that this is what the people want.”
Sportman Adventures’ owner William Decker Jr. thinks “it’s a really good idea to keep (the) political agenda in check. This is something that goes back hundreds of years to our Constitutional rights, so we need to preserve it,” he said.
“We don’t have a lot of signatures yet, but we’ve talked to a lot of people and they’re excited about it,” he said. “There is strength in numbers. If other people make their voice heard, it will keep these ridiculous laws in check.”
For his part, Brockway is contacting “fish and game, and rod and gun clubs. We are going to get petitions out to as many people as possible to get signatures. If you have several thousand signatures you will get other people on the board to listen. It will take a group effort.”
Can he get his county board colleagues to pass the resolution? “I think it will depend on the number of petitions we have and how we present it. I know that a couple of representatives became part of the group. It’s a start,” he said.
Kaleb White sees the responses to date as coming from frustration that began with passage of the state’s Safe Act in January 2013 after the Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut.
“It’s frustrating trying to get a handgun or any sort of rifle other than a bolt action in New York. We’re not looking for no gun control and no gun laws, we want it to be more streamlined. We don’t want to jump through hundreds of hoops and spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on permits or training just to protect ourselves.”
ONEONTA – Citing confusion created by the SAFE Act, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, today announced he has introduced legislation to extend the deadline for pistol license holders to recertify their licenses with the state police.