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

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 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that New York’s regulations on obtaining a concealed carry permit were unconstitutionally restrictive. 

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“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 over the law and to proceed with the long-held tradition at military funerals. 

“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. 

“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.”

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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