Hiking Trails

NYC gun ban to alarm residents of upstate bear country

VANDERWHACKER MOUNTAIN WILD FOREST, NY, Aug 12 (Reuters) – Gunfire has long echoed in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Kids skeet from the sky after school and parents mingle and battle it out at the shooting range. In the fall, hunters in fluorescent orange roam the forests on the lookout for deer.

Thus, the landmark June decision of the United States Supreme Court establishing a constitutional right to bear arms in public seemed like a vindication of a gun-centric lifestyle. Read more

The feeling was short-lived.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com


The ruling by the court’s conservative majority appalled Democratic leaders across the country who said it would lead to more gun violence.

In response, New York lawmakers dropped parts of its gun licensing laws that the court ruled unconstitutional and created a long list of “sensitive locations” and “restricted locations.” that turn many places into gun-free zones, including large chunks of the Adirondacks. . Read more

Having any type of firearm in these places will be a crime after September 1st. California, New Jersey and other states are closely watching the development of similar plans. Powerful gun owner rights groups see any violation of America’s most recently affirmed right as the target of legal action. Read more

“That pretty much means I have to leave the gun at home,” said Rick Bennett, who sells guns and fishing gear at his shop in the hamlet of North Creek.

The Supreme Court’s decision had authorized the banning of firearms in limited sensitive areas, such as schools or courthouses. New York’s law went much further, adding hospitals, bars, concert halls, but also parks. Bennett’s home sits in the middle of the largest park in the contiguous United States: Adirondack Park, a mountain range covering one-fifth of the state’s landmass. It is larger than several US states and home to 130,000 people and countless bobcats, beavers, muskrats and cottontail rabbits. Bears patrol the hiking trails.

People who organize summer camps, which are in themselves a new sensitive place, are wondering if the popular rifle shooting lessons for children are now a crime. At Mount Van Hoevenberg, a former site of the Winter Olympics inside the park, it’s unclear how the annual biathlon, a sport combining skiing and target shooting, may unfold. It will be a crime to have a firearm at sports venues.

Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democratic Assemblyman from the Bronx in New York, said the bill he co-sponsored was a reasonable response to what he called an ill-founded opinion by “highly politicized right-wing justices “.


Bennett said he got his concealed-carry license in 1980 and loves reheating canned game from last season’s hunt in a skillet.

His loaded 9mm Kimber pistol was stowed in his belt as usual as he traversed the mountains through a patchwork of different types of land. He feared that if he was arrested in the wrong place one day and convicted of the new crime of possession of firearms, he would lose his guns.

For miles, the paved road cut through plots of private property, which lawmakers say will automatically become restricted locations if owners don’t post signs saying guns are welcome.

Loose balls rolled into the dash tray of his truck as he spun down the rocky 6km track to the family’s lakeside cabin, winding through the state-owned Vanderwhacker Mountain wilderness forest , which will become a sensitive place, according to the sponsors of the bill.

The new law would exempt those “lawfully engaged in hunting activity,” but deer season, weeks into the fall, was months away.

At Calamity Jane’s, a store selling guns, women’s shoes and handbags with gun holsters sewn into the lining, co-owner Jane Havens broadcast the July Day debate in the Legislative Assembly to browse customers.

Dinowitz and other sponsors of the bill were unequivocal: Adirondack Park was included.

“A guy from the Bronx has no idea what Adirondack Park is,” said Havens, who was born and raised in the mountains.

The week after the law was passed, Governor Kathy Hochul’s office, also a Democrat, said state-owned forest reserve land in the park, about two-fifths of the park’s area, should not not be considered sensitive places, contradicting the sponsors of the bill. More than half of the park is private land.

“They rushed in without anyone being able to examine it,” said Dan Stec, a Republican senator from south of the park. He proposed changing the law to exclude public lands from Adirondack Park. Dinowitz said he opposed the amendment, while Hochul’s office did not respond to that question.

County clerks involved in the gun licensing system and at least one Adirondacks district attorney say the law is confusing. The locals don’t know what to think.

“I’m not even sure you could actually stop and use the bathroom if you had to between yourself and the range,” said John Bowe, president of Dunham’s Bay Fish and Range Club.

The plaintiffs who won the pro-gun Supreme Court ruling live just south of the Adirondacks, including Tom King, the president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association.

“I’ve had hundreds of calls from people in the Adirondacks,” King said, “and all I can say is there are going to be lawsuits.”

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com


Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Donna Bryson and Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.