Pending state gun laws frustrate Franklin County officials
MALONE — A bevy of new gun laws in New York has Franklin County officials worried about how to handle the administration of permit requirements, and some county lawmakers see the legislation as incomplete with regard to rural North Country gun owners.
Franklin County Clerk Kip Cassavaw addressed the Franklin County Board of Legislators during its regular meeting Thursday and said he feels confident that gun laws slated to go into effect on Sept. 1 will put an unsustainable workload on his office. He said county clerks across the state share his frustration with a law that he and others do not believe was fully thought through.
Cassavaw said state law changing gun licensing requirements, combined with the Supreme Court decision in July striking down New York’s concealed carry law and earlier legislation related to rifles and semiautomatic rifles, will change the way state residents are licensed to carry firearms.
State law will soon require permits for semiautomatic rifles, in addition to the pistol permits previously required. Cassavaw said the legislation will allow gun owners to add semiautomatic rifles to existing pistol permits, while a special permit will be required in all other cases.
The new law requires a recertification course every three years — down from every five — for concealed carry, which includes the completion of a 16-hour course. Applicants must score at least 80% on a written test and be declared proficient in a live-fire scenario with an official from the state police. All other permits must be recertified every five years.
It would also require applicants to reveal any social media accounts used over the last three years, and to complete a sit-down interview with the licensing authority, typically a judge. Applicants will have to submit the names and personal information of any adults living in the same home as the permit applicant. It further requires personal references and “any other information that the judge requires.
Cassavaw said this presents a hardship to many law-abiding citizens, as well as his office.
The legislation also lacks clear definitions of where concealed carry is permitted, Cassavaw said. For example, while concealed carry is not permitted in parks, it is unclear whether the law refers to the Adirondack Park and other state parks, or municipal and neighborhood parks, or both. The Adirondack Park is the largest state park in the nation and a haven for hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts.
“The paperwork associated with that is going to be tremendous,” Cassavaw said. “It’s going to create a tremendous workload. I don’t know how we’re going to keep track of it all.”
He said his office has been reaching out to the state police and other authorities for clarification and direction on the new laws.
“They just don’t know,” Cassavaw said.
The county currently has 6,500 gun owners permitted to carry concealed pistols, but permit numbers are sure to rise significantly with new requirements.
“A lot of us have (unlicensed) .22s in our gun cabinet, or something for hunting deer,” Cassavaw said. “This changes all that.”
Legislator Andrea M. Dumas, R-Malone, expressed her concern with state overreach.
“Is this another unfunded mandate the state is putting forward?” Dumas asked. “Are they going to hire a judge just to mandate these face-to-face visitations?”
“The permits alone are a full-time job,” said Legislator Donald Dabiew, D-Bombay.
Legislator Lindy Ellis, D-Saranac Lake, questioned if the new legislation would stop people who should not have guns from obtaining them.
“I would say no, because this doesn’t stop you or me from going to Pennsylvania and purchasing a handgun,” Cassavaw said.
“It doesn’t stop somebody from breaking into your house and stealing your guns,” Dumas added.
Cassavaw said the new requirements put the onus on pistol-permit holders who have taken the steps to maintain legal compliance and maintained that compliance.
“This is just going to add more onto those people,” Cassavaw said.
Ellis supported the requirement for social media disclosure in permit applications, citing the preponderance of violent and disturbing social media posts by mass shooters in events around the country in recent years.
“The vast majority of our people treat guns in an appropriate way,” Ellis said. “This is to find the ones that are going to go off the rails.”
No action was taken Thursday by the Franklin County Legislature and the county awaits further direction from the state.