A slew of historical reenactments in New York have been canceled — because participants are concerned their muskets could run afoul of a new state gun law.
The law, which took effect Sept. 1, prohibits carrying weapons in “sensitive locations” such as public parks, museums, and sports fields, leaving history buffs concerned their black-powder muskets could get them arrested, the Observer-Dispatch reported.
“All it would take is a citizen complaint and the whole thing will become a mess,” said Terry Parker, who decided to cancel a Civil War reenactment event he planned for late September in Allegany County in the wake of the new law.
“We didn’t really want to be the test case and get my friends arrested,” said Parker, who started the event 18 years ago and leads the organizing committee, to the outlet.
In addition, the Living History Weekend scheduled for last week in central New York, which was to also include a Civil War reenactment, was squashed after the local sheriff’s office found the event could violate the new law, the outlet reported.
“Our attorneys advised us that there is no exemption in the law for civil war reenactments,” Herkimer County Sheriff Scott Scherrer told the outlet.
“It would be illegal according to the letter of the governor’s law.”
Then Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office issued a statement to USA Today insisting the new law doesn’t criminalize reenactments.
“These laws allow historical re-enactments to occur and we will work with legislators and local law enforcement to ensure these events can legally and safely proceed,” the statement read.
But Rochester lawyer Sheldon Boyce Jr., who specializes in Second Amendment law, said there’s no carveout for historical events in the law’s language.
“[Hochul’s] saying that they’re going to pass new legislation to exempt the enactments,” the lawyer told the outlet. “But so far, I have not seen an actual bill that’s been signed by the governor.”
Last weekend, a reenactment of the Battle of Plattsburgh was nearly canceled after organizers were warned by the state that the event could violate the new law, the Press-Republican reported.
Organizers ended up moving forward with the event after local cops said they wouldn’t arrest anyone officially tied to it. But the state told them they could only fire cannons – not muskets, according to the Press-Republican.
“Any time government makes sweeping policy changes, there is the potential for something to get missed and swept up unintentionally, and that’s what happened here,” Plattsburgh Mayor Chris Rosenquest said.
Re-enactors hope the issue gets clarified — and soon.
“It makes it more tangible to hear those muskets and create that image of what it must have been like in 1814,” Rosenquest said.