Monday, April 4, 2011

Shooters Committee on Political Education fights for New Yorker's

Shooters Committee on Political Education  

The Presidents Report

In addition to the work SCOPE does on legislative issues, we have been very active in litigation. That is; legal challenges in the court-room to address certain issues that we have not been able to address through the legislative process. There have been cases we have lost, cases we have won, and there are current and future cases yet to be decided. The resource for funding these cases has been SCOPE’s Legal Defense Fund. This fund is dependent on the donations of our members.

One of the major issues of concern to our members over the years has been the NYS Pistol Permit system. Although it is a state license and should be subject to uniform statewide standards, in practice it is implemented by local county governments. Standards and practices vary significantly from one county to the next. Some counties impose restrictions on pistol permits that are not provided for by the state licensing law; NYS penal code section 400. SCOPE filed a lawsuit some two dec-a des ago to put a stop to the practice. Unfortunately we lost on that suit and quite frankly we would have been better advised not to have gone for-ward with that case. Now we have legal precedent set against us.

SCOPE vs. Pataki was filed in 2001 to challenge the Pataki five point gun law that was passed in 2000. Although much of the law was upheld, there was one point on which SCOPE prevailed. There were very stringent requirements set for operating a ―Gun Show‖ in New York. The trouble with the law was that the defi-nition of a gun show was so overly broad and vague that almost any event where guns were present or even discussed could be legally ruled a gun show. This could lead to a situation where almost any gun club function would technically be in violation of the law. The courts agreed with SCOPE that the law was vague and overreaching. This ruling was very important because without it most of our member clubs could have been ruled in violation of the law whenever they hosted a trap meet or pancake breakfast.

The next litigated issue funded by SCOPE was a law suit against Nassau County; Chwick vs. Mulvey. The principle issue was whether Nassau County ordinance Title 69, Local Law, 5-2008, which bans the possession of ―deceptively colored‖ fire arms, is preempted by NYS Penal Law 400. The court ruled the following points in December of 2010. The ordinance imposed an ad-ditional requirement for lawful pos-session of a valid firearms license beyond the State’s requirements. If each of New York’s 62 counties en-acted ordinances that placed additional restrictions on licenses as the amended ordinance does, the uniformity in firearm licensing that the legislature intended would be destroyed. As such, no locality may supplant the licensing requirements provided by Penal Law 400. That means that it is illegal for the counties to place addi-tional restrictions on pistol permits! This is a major victory with potential to affect the firearms licensing procedures in many counties across New York State.

Currently SCOPE is contributing to a lawsuit brought against Westchester County officials. The suit was initiated by the Second Amendment Foundation and the legal team led by Alan Gura, the same team that won the DC vs. Heller and McDonald vs. Chicago decisions in the United States Supreme Count. Westchester County has been denying pistol permits on the grounds that the applicants could not show a need to protect themselves that is greater than the average person. The suit makes the points that the Supreme court’s ruling in DC vs. Heller guaranteed an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the McDonald vs. Chicago decision made it clear the state and local governments as well as the Federal government were prohibited from infringing on that right. This suit is likely to take some time to resolve but we feel it will be an important step towards protecting the rights of New Yorkers.

These legal battles are an important addition to the legislative work that SCOPE does on behalf of our members. Litigation in New York’s courts is tedious, expensive, and not with out the risk of sometimes getting a bad precedent set. However we feel this work is necessary. That is why SCOPE maintains our Legal Defense Fund. Recent battles have depleted this fund. We have ongoing and future court actions that will likely cost us more than our reserves. That is why I am appealing to our member-ship to donate whatever you can to help us fight for you. As the old War-r en Zevon song goes, ―Send Lawyers Guns and Money‖ 
Send your donations to:

SCOPE Legal Defense Fund 
12 Gateway Drive 
Batavia NY 14020.
Stephen J. Aldstadt, President

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