I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a few legal points regarding the safe-storage ordinance submitted to the Philipstown Town Board (Gun Opponents Bring Case to Philipstown Town Board, Nov. 4).
It is important to understand that the proposed ordinance is not the same as the Washington, D.C., safe-storage ordinance that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Under the D.C. ordinance, a firearm in the home was required to be locked or unloaded and disabled at all times. Under the proposed Philipstown ordinance, a firearm only needs to be safely stored when not within a person’s “possession or control.”
Possession means on your person. But what does “within a person’s control” mean? This is the question we need to focus on to come to a reasoned decision about the merits of this proposed ordinance.
Here are some scenarios to consider under the ordinance:
- Suppose you have a child in the house and you go out to mow the lawn, can you leave your gun on a bookshelf? No.
- Suppose you sit down to eat dinner with your family, can you keep your gun holstered? Yes.
- Can you go to sleep with a loaded gun on your nightstand? Yes. But if you have children in the house, you’ll need to lock your bedroom door.
As I think of scenarios, I find myself coming up with more scenarios of what you are permitted to do under the ordinance than scenarios of what you are not permitted to do. In fact, this ordinance is so minimal that it simply codifies the basic common sense that all responsible gun owners naturally use as a bare minimum.
For this reason, I am not clear why the ordinance might be objectionable to any gun owner. Not only is this ordinance minimal, it is not enforceable. Law enforcement has absolutely no right to enter private property without consent unless there is probable cause to do so. There have been claims that this ordinance supersedes this constitutional right. Rest assured it absolutely does not. That is why it is not enforceable.
So why would this ordinance be of any use? Because in the event a gun owner does not use the common sense that God gave him and that the ordinance requires of him, and someone is harmed as a result, the victim(s) (or family) would be able to sue the gun owner in civil court with a clear cause of action. This alone creates a strong deterrent to dangerous, irresponsible behavior. There is nothing unreasonable about that.
As I watch the debate heat up, I am worried that once again our community will resort to generalized emotion fueled by national special-interest groups, rather than by accurate information and true local concerns. We have an opportunity here to change our ways.
Diana Hird, Cold Spring
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