History Takes a Hit as New Law Forces Reenactors to Hang Up their Guns
A new law restricting the carry of firearms in most public areas of the Empire State has an unintended consequence when it comes to historical commemorations.
Following a 6-3 ruling this summer from the U.S. Supreme Court concerning New York's unconstitutional "may issue" concealed carry permitting scheme, state lawmakers scrambled to pass a flurry of new anti-gun bills in a matter of days. Breathlessly signed into law by Kathy Hochul, New York's unelected governor, these included NY Senate Bill S51001, which bans the carry of legally possessed firearms – even with a permit – in "sensitive" places.
The thing is, on S51001's sweeping list are libraries, museums, parks, performance venues, schools of all stripes, and just about any facility owned by Federal, state, or local governments. What this means for reenactors at New York's historical forts and battlefields is that, while they may be welcome, their antique flintlocks, percussion muskets, pistols, and revolvers are not – under a threat of a felony charge.
"The newly passed firearm law has halted all historical reenactments, commemorations and living history demonstrations that were planned in the coming weeks,” Fort Tribute volunteer coordinator and reenactor Scott A. Wilson told the Watertown Daily Times. Besides the St. Lawrence County fort, which has a large annual Civil War reenactment, Wilson was forced to cancel events at the Almanzo Wilder Farm in Burke, German Flatts at Old Fort Herkimer Church in the Mohawk Valley, and Angelica in Western New York.
"It is a blanket zero-tolerance legislation. There is no exceptions for museums or historic demonstrations,” said Joshua Wingler, a New York reenactor who portrays American fighting men from the French and Indian Wars through the Civil War and has been doing so for 20 years. "This will negatively impact museums across the state with their educational outreach and revenue."
New York Assemblyman Billy Jones last week joined with organizers of the Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration event – honoring an 1814 clash between British/Canadian and American forces during the War of 1812, to decry the new law.
"This is what happens when the state rushes to pass legislation without properly vetting it first. Firearms at reenactments are not dangerous– reenactors have public safety in mind when organizing these events," said Jones. "But now, all future battle reenactments are in jeopardy because reenactors are not going to travel far distances if they are not allowed to bring their firearms, especially reenactors from Canada. Reenactments are an excellent teaching tool, and not allowing firearms will take away from experiencing living history. This will also impact local tourism and local businesses that depend on visitors to special events like these. This legislation has been a disaster since the beginning, and it’s time that the State addresses the many issues with this bill."
Banner image: Civil War reenactors firing a final salute at the Beauvoir Fall Muster in 2020. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)