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Kathy Hochul’s New Gun Laws Put Churches at Risk

For your consideration:

  • On June 17, 2015, a man walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., where a prayer meeting was being held. He shot and killed nine people, including the pastor, State Senator Clementa Pinckney. The shooter was charged with a hate crime.
  • November 5, 2017 — a man entered the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in Texas. He was dressed in black and wearing tactical gear. By the time he finished shooting, 26 were dead and 20 were wounded.
  • On a Sunday morning in December 2019, a man walked through the door of the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, and opened fire during services. Two victims died in the attack. The gunman was killed by two parishioners, one of whom was the security guard.
  • October 27, 2018 — a man came into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. After shouting “All Jews must die!” he shot and killed 11 people. Six others were wounded. He was known for posting anti-Semitic rants on Gab.
  • One person was killed and three were injured when a man entered Chabad of Poway in California and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle in April 2019.
  • In January of this year, a man held four people, including the rabbi, hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, for 10 hours before being killed by police. The suspect said that he had hidden bombs in undisclosed locations.
  • In May 2022, the New York Post reported a rise in anti-Semitic activity in the city. This included vandalization of synagogues and attacks on individual people.

And these examples just scratch the surface of incidents involving houses of worship, shootings, and violence.

On September 1 of this year, New York’s gun laws went into effect. It was passed in July on the same day it was introduced. According to Albany Update, the law includes a list of “sensitive places” where concealed carry is now off-limits. These include: “schools, “nursery schools, preschools, and summer camps,” and “any place of worship or religious observation.” Unless someone is a member of law enforcement, an active member of the military, or a security guard, if someone takes their gun to any sensitive place in the state of New York, including church, they will be guilty of a felony. A church, synagogue, temple, or mosque can always hire private security — provided there is room in the budget for it. But members will be prohibited from carrying their guns.

Along with the sensitive area restrictions, the laws require a license to purchase a semi-automatic rifle, among other things, and raise the age for the purchase to 21. People cannot purchase body armor if they are not in an “eligible profession.” The law also includes microstamping ammunition, a ban on magazines that hold more than ten rounds, and an expansion of the state’s red flag laws.

It has been said ad infinitum and even ad nauseam that gun-free zones and the accompanying signs will not stop mass shootings. After all, if someone is bent on committing a mass shooting, he or she will not pay attention to a sign or a law. Shooters intend to break the law. And let us be honest, a mass shooter is a predator, and predators follow the prey to places like schools and churches. They know that those places are full of victims who are not prepared to defend themselves. Hochul’s gun laws will only make children and worshippers even more vulnerable to these predators. Someone may feel proud of the “Gun Free Zone” at the door of their church, but laws and signs mean nothing to a criminal.

Not everyone in the Empire State is taking these developments lying down. The NY State Jewish Gun Club is taking action. In a press release, the club announced that it is filing a lawsuit. Cory Morris, one of the attorneys for the club, stated:

“This latest legislative effort eviscerates New Yorkers’ ability to exercise their most basic constitutional rights without fear of harm or arrest, it fosters criminality and forces religious institutions to advertise to criminals that New York demands our churches and synagogues remain vulnerable to hate and violence, This legislation not only ensures that the surge in religion- based hate crimes will continue, but turns worshippers into sitting ducks.”

Another of the attorneys, Ameer Benno, said:

“By designating all houses of worship as “sensitive places” where exercising the fundamental right to self defense will now be punishable by prison time, the government has not only violated the Second Amendment but also the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion…No one should have to choose between practicing their faith and defending themselves and their family. We will fight to strike down this blatantly unconstitutional law.”

Taking on the behemoth of the New York state government is not going to be easy or cheap, and the club is asking for support. You can access the club’s crowdfunding site here.

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