Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Upstate New York Sheriffs say they won't enforce gun law

Robert Milby, Wayne County’s new sheriff, has been in law enforcement most of his adult life, earning praise and promotions for conscientious service. But recently, Sheriff Milby has attracted attention for a different approach to the law: ignoring it, reported The New York Times.

Sheriff Milby is among at least a half-dozen sheriffs in upstate New York who have said they have no intention of aggressively enforcing gun regulations that state lawmakers passed last summer, forbidding concealed weapons in so-called sensitive areas — a long list of public spaces including, but not limited to, government buildings and religious centers, health facilities and homeless shelters, schools and subways, stadiums and state parks, and, of course, Times Square.

“It’s basically everywhere,” said Sheriff Milby, in a recent interview in his office in Wayne County, east of Rochester. “If anyone thinks we’re going to go out and take a proactive stance against this, that’s not going to happen.”

U.S. District Court judge recently blocked large portions of the law, dealing a major blow to lawmakers in Albany who had sought to blaze a trail for other states after the Supreme Court in June struck down a century-old New York law that had strictly limited the carrying of weapons in public. Between the court challenge and the hostility of many law enforcement officers, New York’s ambitious effort could be teetering.

The judge, Glenn T. Suddaby, agreed to a three-day delay of his order to allow an emergency appeal to a higher federal court. But even before Judge Suddaby ruled, a collection of sheriffs from upstate New York were already saying they would make no special effort to enforce the law, citing lack of personnel, an overbroad scope and possible infringements on the Second Amendment.

Nationwide, conservative sheriffs have been at the front line of an aggressive pushback on liberal policies — often framing themselves as “constitutional sheriffs,” or as self-declared arbiters of any law’s constitutionality. Sheriffs in other states have also been part of efforts to prove a fallacious conspiracy theory that former President Donald J. Trump actually won the 2020 election.

In New York, dissent has walked a fine line between loud complaints and winking resistance, including pledges of selective — and infrequent — enforcement. 

“I have to enforce it because I swore to uphold the laws, but I can use as much discretion as I want,” said Richard C. Giardino, the Republican sheriff in Fulton County, northwest of Albany. “If someone intentionally flouts the law, then they’re going to be handled one way. But if someone was unaware that the rules have changed, then we’re not going to charge someone with a felony because they went into their barbershop with their carry concealed.”

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