Reenactors fear being targeted by New York gun laws

ALBANY, New York – Some historical battle reenacters in New York are holding back their musket fire over concerns about the state’s new gun laws – an unplanned side effect of a law designed to protect the safety of the public.

The law, which went into effect this month, declares parks, state property and a long list of other “sensitive” locations to be gun bans. The rules were geared towards semi-automatic pistols rather than flintlock firearms, but reenactors, afraid of being arrested for publicly re-enacting battles from the Colonial era to the Civil War, stay off the field.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration insists historical battle reenactments are still in order and some have still taken place this month. But continued skepticism among event organizers and attendees has led to some cancellations, such as B. an 18th century camp and a battle re-enactment planned for last weekend north of Saratoga Springs.

“We have received reports from units scheduled to attend that they are not comfortable transporting muskets or getting muskets to site,” said Harold Nicholson, a reenactor involved with the Rogers Island event. “And so at that point we decided it’s probably best not (go ahead).”

Hence the dismay a quickly passed law after the US Supreme Court invalidated New York’s requirement that people must demonstrate an unusual threat to their safety in order to qualify for a license to carry a handgun outside their homes.

Hochul and her fellow Democrats, who control the state legislature, responded with legislation setting tough new eligibility criteria and limited where handguns, shotguns and rifles can be worn. Some reenactors looking at the letter of the law have concluded that the old-style weapons they’re using could put them in the crosshairs of the new rules.

Among the canceled events: two Civil War re-enactments in upstate New York this month and a Revolutionary War raid to be held this weekend at the Fort Klock historic site in the Mohawk Valley.

“The reason we canceled it was for fear of exposing the people we invited to the event to prosecution for committing a crime,” said Robert Metzger, a reenactor who serves on the Fort Klock Historic Restoration board of directors .

Metzger said he knew local sheriff’s deputies “had a lot better things to do than harass 70-year-old men with flintlocks,” but there was a chance someone would complain. And the non-profit corporation did not want to risk losing the state charter.

He added that reenactors from Canada were reluctant to attend the event.

Hochul’s press office said in a prepared statement historical reenactments could continue under the law “and there should be no concerns otherwise.”

“We will work with legislators and local law enforcement to ensure these events are allowed to play out as they have for centuries,” the administration said. “Meanwhile, individuals who have lawfully participated in stalking should continue to do so.”

The organizers of a re-enactment at Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York took this advice and staged a re-enactment of a 1777 raid on the fort.

“Both the Office of the Governor and the state leadership advised us to simply continue operations as normal,” said Beth Hill, President and CEO of the Fort Ticonderoga Association. “So we haven’t changed anything.”

But the governor’s repeated assurances have meant less to other groups. They say they won’t feel safe on simulated battlefields in New York until there are changes in the law making it clear they won’t be criminals for behaving like historical soldiers.

“We want our story to live on,” said Metzger. “And they make it pretty difficult.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Reenactors fear being targeted by New York gun laws

Sarah Y. Kim

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