St. Lawrence County officials take state to task over returned pistol permits, sheriff to tackle problem

Posted 1/10/23

BY JIMMY LAWTON North Country This Week CANTON — St. Lawrence County officials are taking the state to task after they say up to 200 conceal carry pistol license applicants were returned incomplete …

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St. Lawrence County officials take state to task over returned pistol permits, sheriff to tackle problem



North Country This Week

CANTON — St. Lawrence County officials are taking the state to task after they say up to 200 conceal carry pistol license applicants were returned incomplete by state police. The county sheriff hopes to rectify the problem.

The problem officials say is that the state is requiring training that requires a pistol, but don’t allow the applicants to use a pistol prior to the issuance of the license making it impossible to complete the training.

Officials say that because they can’t use a pistol for the training which requires using a pistol, the training has not been completed.

Officials say that roughly 70 applicants received letters from the state notifying them that their applications were incomplete while more than 100 or so were notified by phone.

St. Lawrence County Sheriff Brooks Bigwarfe has agreed to step in to complete the application background investigations.

“Law abiding citizens seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights should not be penalized because of the State of New York’s refusal to abide by the US Supreme Court’s decision. We will complete the pending background investigations to assist the citizens in moving forward with the exercise of their rights,” he said.

In a press release issued Tuesday St. Lawrence County officials uniformly denounced the actions of the state.

St. Lawrence County officials taking issue with the problem include Bigwarfe, St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Chairman Dave Forsythe and St. Lawrence County Clerk Sandy Santamour.

“County officials were recently informed that the State of New York had decided that it would not proceed forward with pending pistol applications, leaving many applicants in a state of legal limbo,” the release says.

According to the release as many as 200 pistol license applicants in St. Lawrence County were recently informed by the New York State Police that their applications, some of which had been pending since the beginning of 2022, would be denied. The state police denials of conceal carry licenses are due to what they say are incomplete background checks. Other applicants would only be permitted to receive a “premises-only” license, permitting the applicant permission only to possess their firearm in their homes and for travel to and from a gun range.

Officials say that at the heart of the matter are changes made to the pistol licensing scheme employed by New York State known as the “Conceal Carry Improvement Act.”

On June 23, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen, striking down the New York State ‘proper cause’ requirements for the issuance of a pistol license.

Building upon District of Columbia v. Heller and the decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago, Illinois, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Bruen that the Second Amendment’s protection of “the right to keep and bear arms” extends to individual self-defense outside the home.

In response to the Bruen decision, the New York State Legislature and Governor Kathy Hochul concluded a two-day extraordinary session on July 1, 2022 that led to Governor Hochul signing the “Concealed Carry Improvement Act” so titled by its proponents. The Concealed Carry Improvement Act moved to circumvent the decision, depriving New York State citizens of any effective right to self-defense in public in one major way; by exponentially expanding the places [“Sensitive places”] in which a person with a valid license cannot carry a firearm for self-defense.

In addition the Concealed Carry Improvement Act included what officials say were alarming provisions that flouted the Bruen precedent by requiring concealed carry permit applicants to: display ‘good moral character’; subject their social media accounts for review; submit to in-person interviews with law enforcement; provide four character references; undergo 18 hours of combined training (an increase from the existing four-hour requirement); and recertify every three years instead of the prior recertification period of every five years.

According to the release the 18 hours of combined instruction includes a two-hour component requiring applicants to complete in-person range training.

However, applicants, unlicensed to possess firearms, would be performing an illegal act under most scenarios, were they to possess and discharge a pistol as a part of that training.

It was this quandary that led state officials to notify pistol license applicants that their requests for carry conceal licenses would be denied.

Immediately following the passage of the Conceal Carry Improvement Act, multiple lawsuits were filed challenging the legislation.

“One of the more prominent of these suits was Antonyuk and Gun Owners of America et. al v. Bruen et. al (now known as “Antonyuk et. al v. Nigrelli et. al”) in the Northern District of New York U.S. District Court. In September of 2022, the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators voted in favor of allowing St. Lawrence County Attorney Stephen D. Button to act as ‘of counsel’ to the attorneys litigating on behalf of the named plaintiffs in Antonyuk,” the release says.

“On November 7, 2022, Chief Judge Glenn T. Suddaby of the Northern District of New York granted a preliminary injunction to the plaintiffs, finding the vast majority of the Conceal Carry Improvement Act unconstitutional. That decision was quickly stayed by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on application of the State of New York. The plaintiffs have recently made a request of the U.S. Supreme Court to permit Suddaby’s decision to take effect.”

A decision remains pending in the application.

St. Lawrence County Clerk Sandy Santamoor, who acts as the filing clerk for pistol applications in St. Lawrence County, noted that the latest issue continues to add to an already confusing situation. “These poor people continue to try to jump through every hoop put before them in order to exercise a right the Supreme Court says they are entitled to exercise. Despite the fact that New York has one of the most restrictive licensing setups in the country, the state continues to add more restrictions that appear designed to stop law-abiding citizens of St. Lawrence County from exercising the right that every citizen should enjoy. It’s shameful.”

St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Chairman David Forsythe (R-District 2) identified the State’s actions as ‘unlawful.’ “St. Lawrence County has been a leader in New York State, on behalf of all state citizens, in challenging the unlawful restrictions placed upon citizens seeking to merely exercise their constitutional rights. We will continue to dedicate our efforts and resources towards supporting our citizens’ rights and holding those who would seek to deny those rights accountable.”

It remains unknown as to whether the State’s current actions are only being implemented in St. Lawrence County or if this is a statewide measure.