HUGUENOT, NY — Council member David Dean read the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Through the decades many people interpreted this to mean people had the right to bear arms when they are a member of a militia such as the National Guard. But in 2008, five of the nine justices in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) declared that the Second Amendment was actually a personal right for just about all citizens of the U.S. whether a member of a militia or not.
It was this interpretation of the law that the Council of the Town of Deerpark was supporting at a town meeting on January 22 in Huguenot.
They discussed a resolution opposing the NY-SAFE Act, which was passed by the New York legislature and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on January 15. The Deerpark resolution said the act “infringes on the right to keep and bear arms and would ban the possession and use of firearms now employed by individual citizens by the Town of Deerpark, for defense of life, liberty and property and… for safe forms of firearm recreation, hunting and shooting....”
According to information on the website created by the state government to answer questions about the law, (www.governor.ny.gov/2013/gun-reforms-faq ), “Most guns are not assault weapons and are not affected by this law;” the law was meant to address assault weapons. Residents who currently own assault weapons are required to register them with the New York State Police by April 15, 2014, and sales of new assault weapons are banned.
In the District of Columbia v. Heller decision in 2008, when SCOTUS determined that the right to carry guns was an individual right, the justices did not address the issue of assault weapons, but they did say there were limits to the right.
The court wrote, “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The decision also suggested that it might be constitutional for municipal and state governments to ban the sale and use of machine guns.
But for the members of the town board, the banning of assault weapons is not acceptable. Council member David Hoovler said, “You can walk literally a half mile from here and you will be in a wooded area where you could fire a rifle or even a machine gun and you would not hit anything other than trees.”
Council member Gary Spears said, “I cherish the fact that I have the right to protect myself and my property and I want that right not only for me but for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and yours, too, because I truly believe that if we lose that right, it’s just the beginning of many, many rights we’re going to lose in this country.”
Supervisor Karl Brabenec called the bill “absolutely ridiculous.”
The resolution supporting the law passed unanimously and the audience of 40 or so residents applauded several times during the discussion preceding the vote.