Essex County Government Center, Elizabethtown
ELIZABETHTOWN — Despite concern among local sportsmen to the contrary, the ability to obtain a permit in Essex County to carry a concealed pistol in public has not been taken away.
According to Essex County Judge Richard B. Meyer, there have been talks statewide about a uniform pistol permit policy that would allow pistols under certain “restricted” circumstances — like for hunting and target shooting — but not for carrying concealed in public.
Essex County is one of a handful of New York counties that allows “full” or “unrestricted” carry, meaning a pistol can be concealed and carried in public for the purpose of self defense.
Recently, Meyer began sending out a two-page cover letter with all new pistol permit applications, drawing attention to a November 2012 court decision that upheld the ability of state court judges to restrict a pistol permit to only certain uses such as hunting, target shooting or the defense of a person’s home.
The ruling, handed down by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said county judges, acting as pistol licensing officers, can restrict permits and grant the right to carry a concealed weapon in public only to those who show they have a special need for self-protection greater than others in the general community.
That led local sportsmen to believe that Meyer was stating in the letter that he intended to stop issuing unrestricted permits and perhaps even require those with existing permits to give up their right to carry concealed when they recertify their permit or apply for a duplicate one.
New York’s new SAFE Act now requires pistol permit holders to recertify their license every five years.
But Meyer said he has not changed anything formally at this time. He said the letter that went out with new pistol permit applications was for “informational purposes only.”
“I’m not changing anything at this point,” Meyer said. “Not until I hear from someone that I have to.”
Meyer said he has never had an incident in which an individual with the right to carry a pistol concealed was found to have acted incorrectly in the use of their weapon.
“I’ve never had a problem,” he said. “I’m going to continue allowing it.”
Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting echoed the judge’s statement, saying that in his 36 years of local law enforcement he cannot recall a single problem with a law abiding pistol permit holder.
At times, permits and guns have been taken from individuals pending the disposition of a crime or an order of protection, Cutting said, but not for the misuse of the right to carry a pistol concealed.
Meyer acknowledged that the pistol permit process from one county to the next is currently anything but uniform. Restrictions are left to the discretion of the sitting county judge.
“This is an emotional issue and there is a lot of confusion out there,” Meyer said.
Cutting provided a survey compiled by the New York State Sheriff’s Association that outlines the pistol permit policy of 34 out of 62 total counties in New York. Of those surveyed, 10 allow the ability to carry a concealed pistol in public, with the permission of the county judge. Most only allow permits restricted to hunting, target shooting and home defense, unless a citizen can prove an “exceptional circumstance” that would require the need to carry a concealed weapon.
Clinton County, for example, allows permits for “sportsman purposes only.” Franklin and Hamilton counties, on the other hand, still issue full concealed carry permits, while Warren County issues both restricted permits as well as conceal carry permits at the discretion of the county judge.