November 30, 2021

Cincinnatus board approves gun measure

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Cincinnatus became on Thursday the third town in New York to adopt a law that would defy future state gun regulations, following Solon and Truxton.

The town board unanimously approved the law, following a public hearing Tuesday night in the town fire hall.

The law is nearly identical to the one Solon adopted March 5, when it became the first municipality in New York to pass such a law. Truxton followed with a slightly modified version on March 18.

The Cincinnatus law prohibits any town official or employee from participating in the enforcement of future state gun laws or from using town funds to aid in such enforcement.

The town does not have its own police officers; law enforcement is provided by state police and the county sheriff’s department.

The law would also allow Cincinnatus residents to sue anyone accused of violating the law in state Supreme Court for “declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, and attorney fees” as well as civil fines between $500 and $2,000.

Truxton’s law differs in that it lacks the provision regarding civil fines.

Cincinnatus law has three exceptions. It would not:

Apply to convicted felons or those prohibited from possessing firearms under federal law.

“Prohibit in any way the prosecution of any crime for which the use of, or possession of, a firearm is an aggregating factor or enhancement to an otherwise independent crime.”

Allow firearms possession in areas where they are now prohibited by law.

The proposed law would not apply to the enforcement of existing gun laws, including the 2013 SAFE Act.

The language of these laws matches almost verbatim a template circulated by the Gun Owners of America, a gun rights lobby that positions itself to the right of the National Rifle Association and bills itself as “The only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington.” Almost identical laws have been passed by more than 400 municipalities in at least 20 states.

Robert Spitzer, chairman of the political science department at SUNY Cortland and an expert on the history of U.S. gun policy, expressed concern about the law, as well as those passed by Solon and Truxton.

“I think this resolution is a mistake,” Spitzer said. “I think it misunderstands the Second Amendment, and it contradicts the duty of elected officeholders to uphold state and federal law.”

But it has proven to be popular among town residents, who spoke uniformly in favor of the law at the public hearing. Thursday night, it passed with little comment from board members.

Gus Wehbe, a Truxton board member, attended the meeting to express his support of the law. He also spoke March 5 in Solon, when he presented the board there was a large wooden placard inscribed with the text of the Second Amendment.

“Protecting the Constitution, protecting the Second Amendment – that’s our goal, nothing less than that,” Wehbe said after the meeting. “The Second Amendment is part of the Constitution, it’s part of the Bill of Rights, and all that we’re doing is protecting our rights. That’s it. It’s that simple.”