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Essex County opposes bill banning gun raffles

Supervisors rail against proposal to prohibit firearm prizes

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Essex County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved a resolution opposing a state Assembly bill that would prohibit guns from being raffled off or awarded as prizes in games of chance.

The legislation, proposed by Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, D-Brooklyn, seeks to ban the practice of raffling off guns because “firearm-related violence is a significant public health and safety problem,” according to a memo on the bill. Essex County lawmakers argue the bill would diminish New Yorkers’ Second Amendment rights, and further restrict local nonprofits and charitable organizations’ ability to fundraise.

“Fire departments and charitable organizations in Essex County very often carry out gun raffles in which the common instruments of game hunting are raffled off to benefit the first responders of the community as they attempt to equip their volunteer citizens with suitable equipment to save lives and property when pressed into service,” the board’s resolution reads. “New York state has already eliminated the bake sale of mom’s apple pie as a possible form of fundraising for fire departments and charitable organizations through public health regulations.

“The rationale of the bill’s sponsor linking fire department fundraising to gun violence is non-scientific, completely unproven and amounts to anecdotal grandstanding at the expense of real people carrying out real service to the community.”

The resolution goes on to say “the continued oppression of upstate culture and values” by the state legislature “is a form of tyranny and is entirely unacceptable in any form.”

“This is another long march to restrict the rights of citizens,” said county board Chairman Shaun Gilliland, R-Willsboro. “It’s an attack on the rights of New York citizens.”

Gilliland said in his town, the local fish and game club often raises money by conducting raffles for rifles and other guns. He argued by prohibiting the organization’s ability to do so amounts to culling their ability to fundraise.

He didn’t agree with the connection to gun violence and safety.

“People still have to go in, get a background check and go through the process to get the weapon,” Gilliland said.

Davina Winemiller, St. Armand’s new town supervisor, said she sees no good reason to prohibit guns from being raffled off.

“I think it’s 100 percent appropriate,” she said of gun raffles. “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. I’m all for gun safety and hunter safety courses, but I see no reason to prohibit law-abiding citizens and not-for-profits that do a lot for our communities from hosting these raffles.”

The Warren County Board of Supervisors’ Legislative and Rules Committee has also adopted a resolution opposing the Assembly bill, according to a recent report in the Post-star.

‘Boggles my mind’

Simon told the New York Daily News that she introduced the bill after learning about a National Rifle Association fundraiser in Coney Island, where several guns were set to be awarded as prizes.

“It boggles my mind that anyone would think this was a good thing to raffle off,” she told the Daily News.

Simon first introduced the bill in the 2017-18 legislative session. It died in committee and never made it to the floor for a vote.

She introduced the bill again this session, where it remains in committee.

Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, said with the new Democratic-led legislature, it’s unclear if the bill will meet a similar fate as last year.

The Democratic-majority state legislature has passed a raft of gun-related legislation this session, including bills that prohibit those deemed in court a threat to themselves or others from possessing or purchasing firearms; prohibit teachers from carrying firearms in schools; ban bump stocks; extend the waiting period for those that don’t pass automatic background checks; and require gun owners with children in their home to keep their weapons in safe storage units.

“If it gets to the floor for a vote, it will certainly pass,” Stec said of the gun prize bill.

“I know that it has fired up a lot of people,” he added. “The gun guys and the hunters and sportsmen that I’ve heard from express frustration that this is another insult to law-abiding gun owners.

“Some bills are intended to make the world safer. Some are geared toward insulting or harassing the law-abiding gun owner. This bill tends to fall in the latter category.”

Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, said that New York state already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country.

“Eliminating these raffles will only bring undue financial hardship to many nonprofit organizations, and will do nothing to keep firearms out of the hands of menacing individuals,” he said.

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