Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Kingsbury’s gun rights fight

By Mark Frost & Zander Frost, Chronicle Editor & Staff Writer

Councilwoman Jane Havens has resigned from the Kingsbury Town Board effective November 30, because she says a town law — Chapter 136 — banning guns on town property conflicts with her personal protection and infringes the public’s constitutional rights.

“I refuse to give up my right to carry” a gun, Mrs. Havens told The Chronicle. “I took an oath to defend the Constitution.”

She and Councilman William H. Haessly sought repeal of the law, but lost in a 3-2 vote. Town Supervisor Dana Hogan and councilmen Rick Doyle and Dan Washburn were the majority.

Supervisor Hogan praised Mrs. Havens but told The Chronicle Monday, “I am not comfortable with a full revocation of the law at this point,” which he said “would allow people to bring long guns, rifles into the town hall, into meetings, things like that.”

Mr. Hogan said, “I am a carry concealed permit holder myself in the state of New York. I have a handgun. I do not bring it into the town hall. I don’t bring it on the town property…the big piece for me is that we have to find some compromise to the language itself,” he added.

He said of Mrs. Havens, “I really do have a great deal of respect for the principled stance she has taken on the matter…We had a very good working relationship. She’s done a great deal for the town in the two years she was here. She’s the one who took the lead on our comprehensive plan…She’s going to be a big loss.”

The current law allows some “exceptions” including one for “a Town official or Town employee specifically authorized by the Town Board to possess a firearm on Town property” subject “to any and all restrictions or limitations which the Town Board may place.”

Mrs. Havens rejects the exception. “I cannot support an elite class that has a privilege that my friends and neighbors don’t. I wanted to rescind it. The general public has done nothing to warrant it.”

“People think that there are not concealed firearms all around them,” but there are, says Mrs. Havens. “That’s how responsible people are about it.”

Mrs. Havens said the focus should be on actual crime. She said Falls Farm & Garden, the business that she and her husband operate on Dix Avenue “was robbed” and chainsaws were stolen.

She said two men are “now in jail because of our case.” She mentions a related shooting incident and said, “Law enforcement told us we could be in danger.”

She operates a gun shop — Calamity Jane’s Firearms and Fine Shoes — across the road from Falls Farm & Garden.

But Mrs. Havens says that because of the town prohibition on guns, any time she goes into the town hall, she first goes home and secures her firearm, which she says she is prohibited by federal rules from doing in her store.

“What good is a lawmaker that doesn’t follow the law,” she asks rhetorically. She said she wouldn’t accept a “don’t ask, don’t tell” option.

Mr. Haessly said, “In the north country there are a lot of people who hunt” and they may keep a firearm in their vehicle to go hunt after work.”

He said if a Highway Department employee does that and parks on town property, it’s in violation of the law. Likewise, if a hunter does that while going into town hall to buy a license.

Moreover, Mr. Haessly said, “There’s no posting that it’s illegal.”

Mr. Haessly told The Chronicle, “I was hoping for a compromise” in which a person could keep a firearm “locked and secured” in their vehicle on town property.

But Mrs. Havens said that option is prohibited. “The gun is supposed to be in your care and control at all times so it’s not a compromise to say you’re requiring them to secure it in the car,” she said.

She says a vehicle at Walmart was broken into, a gun was stolen and “the person lost the permit to carry.”

Ms. Haessly acknowledges, “Firearms can be intimidating to some people” and “longarms can be seen as menacing.”

He says “most town employees” do not want firearms brought into town hall except carried by law enforcement people.

Mrs. Havens said that last year, as deliberations began, she surveyed 16 town office workers individually, keeping their identities anonymous. As to changing the law, she said seven didn’t care, seven did not want to change the law and two wanted it completely rescinded.

“I’m always willing to compromise but they just kicked the can down the road,” Mrs. Havens said of the town board.

As to repercussions of the prohibition of guns on town property, Mrs. Havens raises the scenario of people grooming snowmobile trails that run through town property. “They may do that work at night [and] carry a firearm for coyotes — they’re breaking the law. We’re making criminals of people.”

Mrs. Havens said they spent more than a year seeking action on changing the gun law. “Councilman Haessly wrote up an amended law back in June-July 2020 public hearing but nothing happened with it.” She said it mentioned the New York Safe Act “and that’s a really bad piece of legislation,” she said.

Asked why, Mrs. Havens said, “It doesn’t do anything to lessen gun crime. I didn’t want to lend credence to it.”

Mrs. Havens is about halfway through a four-year term ending Dec. 31, 2023.

sked how business is in her Calamity Jane’s Firearms & Fine Shoes store, Mrs. Havens said it’s gratifying to see more people buying guns this year for hunting, whereas last year, she said, purchases were more frequently for home protection. She said, “12 million new gun owners entered the market in 2020.”

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