NY lawmaker wants to allow Amish, Mennonites to buy guns without photo IDs

A New York State Senator has introduced legislation to make it easier for Amish and Mennonite community members to purchase firearms.

The measure, Senate Bill 6859, was introduced last week by Sen. Catharine Young and would allow members of those specific religious communities to buy guns without having to submit a photograph with their handgun application, the Gothamist reported.

Young’s district includes the upstate New York counties of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany, in which large numbers of Amish and Mennonite community members live. Those sects strictly forbid members from taking having photographs taken of themselves, creating a sticky situation when trying to buy guns.

“Currently, members of the Amish and Mennonite communities are unable to possess pistols or revolvers in New York without violating the tenets of their religion by submitting to the taking of a photograph which would also be used for identification purposes,” Young wrote in the bill’s sponsor memo.

In lieu of a submitted photograph, practitioners of the specific religious sects would have to submit a written affidavit that verifies their religion prevents them from being photographed.

The memo also mentions that the two religious sects have received similar exemptions in the past, including labor requirements, educational requirements, and building codes for schools.

In 2015, an Amish man filed and then dropped a federal lawsuit in which he claimed the photograph requirement for purchasing a firearm conflicted with his religion.

“The Amish faith prohibits an individual from having his/her photograph taken,” the suit says. “This belief stems from the Biblical passage Exodus 20:4, which mandates that ‘You shall not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,’ as well as the Christian belief in humility.”

The Amish and Mennonite religions are the only sects listed in the measure, and it remains unclear if the proposal could be applied to other religions as well. If passed and signed into law, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2018.