New York’s strict gun laws scare veterans they’ll end up in jail for funeral salute of 21 guns

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New York veterans’ organizations fear the state’s new, strict gun laws could lead to the prosecution of members who participate in the long tradition of firing 21 gun salutes at a veteran’s funeral.

“They may say we won’t be arrested, but we’re not going to take those risks, especially if it’s a religious cemetery and fire a 21-gun salute, we could be arrested for that,” said US Army Commander David Riley. New York’s Legion Department, WRGB told.

Democratic government leader Kathy Hochul signed a new gun policy earlier this year that bans people from carrying firearms in most hospitals, restaurants, transit systems, Times Square, parks, schools, theaters and other areas considered “sensitive locations.” The law would also apply to some cemeteries, the WRGB reports.

The new laws came in response to the US Supreme Court ruling in June that New York’s rules on obtaining a concealed carrying license were unconstitutionally restrictive.

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“We don’t need guns on our streets. We don’t need people carrying guns in our subways. We don’t need people carrying guns in our schools. We don’t need people carrying guns in our houses of worship. They don’t need them to bars or restaurants because that just makes people less safe,” Hochul said earlier this month.

The American Legion sent letters to all members of New York’s veterans’ committees requesting clarification of the laws, Riley told WRGB. A lawmaker responded, but he did not disclose further details to the outlet.

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“We’re still working on it, we’re not giving up until we know what’s going on,” Riley said. “We have Veterans Day right around the corner and it will affect a lot of ceremonies.”

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Hochul’s office has issued a statement saying that veterans should not worry about the law and should continue the long-held tradition of military funerals.

  A U.S. Marines firefight fires a 21-gun salute during a funeral service for Sgt.  Javier Ortiz Rivera at Arlington National Cemetery, December 2, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia.  Rivera, of Rochester, New York, was reportedly killed on November 16, 2010 during combat operations in Afghanistan.

A U.S. Marines firefight fires a 21-gun salute during a funeral service for Sgt. Javier Ortiz Rivera at Arlington National Cemetery, December 2, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia. Rivera, of Rochester, New York, was reportedly killed on November 16, 2010 during combat operations in Afghanistan.
(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

“These laws allow funerals and other solemn celebrations to take place with gun salutes, otherwise there should be no reason,” Hochul’s office told WRGB. “We will work with lawmakers and local law enforcement to ensure these events can continue and in the meantime, individuals who have lawfully participated in these meaningful salutes at military funerals must continue to do so.”

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The American Legion isn’t the only group hesitant to carry on long-held traditions in the wake of New York’s recent gun laws.

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Historic reenactment events have been canceled in the state over fears that participants could be jailed for breaking the laws.

  World War I military reenactors march in the Veterans Day Parade November 11, 2019 in New York City.  President Trump, the first sitting U.S. president to attend New York's parade, paid tribute to veterans ahead of the 100th annual parade that draws thousands of vets and spectators from across the country.

World War I military reenactors march in the Veterans Day Parade November 11, 2019 in New York City. President Trump, the first sitting U.S. president to attend New York’s parade, paid tribute to veterans ahead of the 100th annual parade that draws thousands of vets and spectators from across the country.
(Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

“Two weeks ago, we started having problems with state and state units who were afraid if they came and brought weapons, muskets, they would be charged with a crime,” organizer Harold Nicholson recently told WRGB.

“Legal minds have told us that the law is the law,” he added. “No matter what the governor says, we could be prosecuted.”

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Hochul’s office has not immediately responded to a request for comment on the matter and whether steps are being taken to clarify the law.

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