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North Country officials say clarification on impact of new concealed carry law on Adirondack Park is needed

Assemblymen D. Billy Jones (left) and Matt Simpson host Adirondack officials to discuss New York's concealed carry law
Pat Bradley
Assemblymen D. Billy Jones (left) and Matt Simpson host Adirondack officials to discuss New York's concealed carry law

After New York’s concealed carry gun law was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, Governor Kathy Hochul called a special session to respond. Days later she signed new legislation that prohibits carrying guns in so-called sensitive places including schools, churches, government buildings and parks. Officials from five of the 12 counties fully or partially in the Adirondacks joined with the two Assembly representatives from the region today to call for clarification on how the 6 million acre Adirondack Park will be affected as the new law is implemented.

The new law goes into effect Thursday. Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, a Democrat representing the 115th district, says clarification is still needed on how the definition of “park” applies to the Adirondack Park.

“Most of the people here are very frustrated on a response or non-response we’re getting on that. We’ve heard a couple of different things out of the governor’s office. I have made several requests to the governor’s office to get us guidelines and guidance on that. There are many questions when it comes to the interpretation of a public park and how does the Adirondack Park translate into that.”

Matt Simpson has had a concealed carry permit for over 30 years. The Republican represents the 114th Assembly District, most of which is in the Adirondacks.

“Right now I can’t tell you whether I’m legally able to have my handgun with me as I have for the last 30 years. And here we are two days from when it becomes law and we don’t know where we stand. But if we make a mistake, it’s a Class E felony. When I was on the floor when this bill was being debated the question was asked very succinctly: If I was hiking on the Northville to Placid trail, would I be able to carry my legally permitted handgun? The answer was no. Subsequently there was a statement out of the governor’s office that said that’s not true. But here we are. We still don’t know.”

Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board Executive Director Jerry Delaney said their concerns extend beyond the legal definition of park and include how the bill was passed.

“This law should have had public comment. We have citizens who honestly are worried about whether or not they are going to commit a felony as they’re traveling. When you’re driving down a state road with Forest Preserve on both sides of it, that becomes a park. How do we deal with private land that has conservation easements on it with signs that clearly state that it’s a recreational area that is administered by the state of New York? Is that a park or is that private land?”

A request for comment to Governor Hochul’s press office was not returned. On July 29th the Democrat was in Lake Placid and was asked about the definition of park and regional concerns.

“When we think about the vast expanse of the Adirondack Park this is not included as one of the parks under the definition because it’s unique. It’s got private property. It’s got businesses and it has downtowns as well as the Forest Preserve. So, people’s rights are protected here. We made sure of that.”

After hearing about her response from a month earlier, Assemblyman Simpson said more than verbal assurances are necessary.

“I don’t think we can say well this is really what we meant when it’s said in the record, established in the Assembly floor, that absolutely the Forest Preserve is included. So, we need legislation. I think that if we don’t have legislation this will be litigated and I think it needs to be in law, in statute, written in a way that can be enforced.”

The Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board passed a resolution calling on the governor and legislative leaders “to exempt the Adirondack Park as a sensitive area” in the new law.