New York’s strict gun laws leave veterans fearful they could wind up in jail over 21-gun funeral salute

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Veteran organizations in New York are fearful the state’s new, strict gun laws could lead to the prosecution of members participating in the long tradition of firing a 21-gun salute at a veteran’s funeral.

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

Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signed new gun policies into law earlier this year that ban people from carrying firearms at most hospitals, restaurants, transit systems, Times Square, parks, schools, theaters and other areas deemed “sensitive locations.” The law would also apply to some cemeteries, WRGB reported.

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

NEW YORK HISTORICAL REENACTMENTS CANCELED OVER FEAR PARTICIPANTS WILL BE THROWN IN JAIL OVER STRICT GUN LAWS

United States Marines fire a 21-gun salute in honor of the victims of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, DC, during a ceremony prior to the New York Mets game against the Atlanta Braves in New York, Sept.  21, 2001. This is the first baseball game to be held in New York since the attacks on the World Trade Center September 11.

United States Marines fire a 21-gun salute in honor of the victims of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, DC, during a ceremony prior to the New York Mets game against the Atlanta Braves in New York, Sept. 21, 2001. This is the first baseball game to be held in New York since the attacks on the World Trade Center September 11.
(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

“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 in our places of worship. We don ‘t need them carrying them into bars or restaurants. Because that only makes people less safe,” Hochul said earlier this month.

The American Legion sent letters to all members of New York’s veterans committees asking for clarification of laws, Riley told WRGB. One legislator responded, but he did not disclose more details to the outlet.

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“We’re still pursuing it; we’re not going to give up until we find out what’s going on,” Riley said. “We have Veterans Day right around the corner, and it’s going to affect a lot of ceremonies.”

Hochul’s office issued a statement saying that veterans should not be concerned about the law and to proceed with the long-held tradition at military funerals.

 A US Marine firing party fires a 21-gun salute during a funeral service for US Marine Staff Sgt. Javier Ortiz Rivera at Arlington National Cemetery Dec. 2, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia.  Rivera, from Rochester, New York, was reportedly killed Nov. 16, 2010 during combat operations in Afghanistan.

A US Marine firing party fires a 21-gun salute during a funeral service for US Marine Staff Sgt. Javier Ortiz Rivera at Arlington National Cemetery Dec. 2, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia. Rivera, from Rochester, New York, was reportedly killed Nov. 16, 2010 during combat operations in Afghanistan.
(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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

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The American Legion is not the only group hesitant to carry on with long-held traditions following New York’s recent gun laws.

Historical reenactment events have been canceled in the state over fear participants could be thrown in jail for breaking the laws.

 World War I military reenactors march in the Veterans Day Parade Nov. 11, 2019 in New York City.  President Trump, the first sitting US president to attend New York's parade, offered a tribute to veterans ahead of the 100th annual parade which draws thousands of vets and spectators from around the country.

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

“Two weeks ago we started getting issues from units out of state and in state who were afraid if they came and brought weapons with them, muskets, that they’d be charged with a felony,” reenactment organizer Harold Nicholson recently told WRGB.

“Legal minds have told us that the law is the law,” he added. “It doesn’t matter what the governor says, we could be prosecuted.”

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Hochul’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter and if steps are being taken to clarify the law.

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