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New gun laws restrict weapons in businesses, but some owners welcome them

Thomas C. Zambito, USA TODAY Network New York State Team
Posted 8/4/22

When he was a boy, Tzvi Waldman’s grandmother told him the story of the day the Nazis came to the house in the cornfields outside Budapest where she and her family had taken refuge ...

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New gun laws restrict weapons in businesses, but some owners welcome them

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When he was a boy, Tzvi Waldman’s grandmother told him the story of the day the Nazis came to the house in the cornfields outside Budapest where she and her family had taken refuge with a family of non-Jews.

She recalled dust landing on her face while she hid under the floorboards as armed Nazis searched the house for Jews.

Guns represented an indelible image of horror etched into Waldman’s grandmother’s memory from the time she was a young girl.

And so Waldman understood when she grew uncomfortable years later when he spoke about guns as a means of self-defense, an interest which led him in recent weeks to a public stand against gun laws approved by the Democratic-led state Legislature.

Waldman, the head of the New York State Jewish Gun Club, has been handing out posters to businesses in the lower Hudson Valley, which alert customers that it’s OK to bring a concealed weapon into the store.

They read: “Concealed Carry is Welcome Here. Thank you for keeping our children safe. May Hashem continue to watch over us.”

The way Waldman sees it, armed self-defense is how all cultures – not just Jews − who flee oppression can take a stand to prevent the sort of tyranny they encountered in their homeland. And it’s an essential right amid a wave of mass shootings at synagogues, schools, a shopping mall and a Buffalo supermarket that have highlighted the vulnerabilities of private citizens.

“It’s embracing the American culture,” Waldman said. “We’re here. We’re safe. Let’s keep America safe. We don’t want it to go back to where it was. … As long as we have the right to bear arms no one can force us back into chambers − anyone into chambers. It just can’t happen.”

The posters take aim at what Waldman regards as an overly restrictive set of gun laws signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul. The measures were approved in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning a century-old law limiting citizen access to concealed weapons.

Among the restrictions in the new law, which goes into effect Sept. 1, is a ban on guns in “sensitive locations,” including schools and colleges, houses of worship, stadiums, theaters, parks, playgrounds, bars, subways and private property without the owner’s permission. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the provision would prevent hidden guns from turning up in public places.

Waldman’s signs address a caveat in the new law, which allows handguns or rifles on private property if the business owner posts a sign saying they’re welcome.

Pro-gun advocates viewed the new laws as government overreach.

In a federal lawsuit, Carl Paladino, a Buffalo businessman running for a congressional seat in an upstate district, called the section of the law banning concealed weapons on private property “one of the most expansive infringements on the constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense ever adopted by a state legislature.”

Gunsmith Erik Melanson posted one of Waldman’s signs on the door of his business, Precision Gunsmiths, which shares space with Molino Arms in Valley Cottage, Rockland County.

“I think firearms are a great way to defend yourself and the people around you, which has been shown time and time again,” said Melanson, sporting a baseball cap adorned with a rifle and the phrase “Come and Take It.”

He said the new laws have the potential to turn law-abiding gun owners into criminals overnight.

“The fact of the matter is none of these laws are going to stop criminals from being criminals,” Melanson said. “In fact, I’ve never met a criminal who cared about laws.”

Lucas McLaughlin, who owns a diner in Cobleskill, Schoharie County, was in Ace Hardware a few weeks back when he spotted a sticker that welcomes customers with concealed carry permits.

He put it on the door to the diner and was stunned by the response. People have been sending him messages saying they were going to travel a long distance to show their support.

“In all honesty it had nothing to do with or against the governor,” McLaughlin said. “The timing just happened to be perfect.”

He worried that families would hesitate to bring their children in because they’d fear everyone inside had a handgun.

But that hasn’t happened. The diner west of Albany has been in his family for three generations and is some 45 minutes from Conklin, the hometown of the man accused of killing 10 people in a racially-motivated attack at a Buffalo supermarket in May.

The sticker posted on the door of the Cobleskill Diner tells customers it’s OK to enter with a concealed weapon

“I slapped it on there and people were saying ‘Hey I’m really glad you put that there because of all the craziness,” McLaughlin said.

The diner has been broken into three times in the middle of the night.

“I feel like if customers are allowed to carry their own protection, if God forbid someone were to walk in here and try doing something, we wouldn’t just have a bunch of hands up in the air,” he said. “I feel like (the sign) is better than an ADT sticker.”

Not all private business owners are on board with the ability to opt-out of the new law’s restrictions.

“I’m pro gun, don’t get me wrong,” said Barry Fixler, the owner of Barry’s Estate Jewelry in Bardonia, Rockland County. “But if every person carried a gun and somebody lost their temper, they’re gonna shoot each other.”

In 2005, Fixler shot one of two men who came into his Route 304 store on Valentine’s Day pretending to be buying an engagement ring. “Don’t Move,” one of the men said. “I’ll ... kill you!”

Fixler, who served as a Marine during Vietnam, slapped away the gun that was in his face and grabbed for a .38-caliber handgun he kept behind the counter. The 18-year-old he shot was paralyzed when the bullet struck his spinal cord.

In order to carry a concealed weapon anywhere in New York, residents must go through a rigorous application process that includes training, fingerprinting and collecting character references.

Waldman’s group arranges training for those who want to protect themselves in their home or business, as well as those who want to work as security guard in synagogues.

“The minute (attackers) know somebody’s gonna shoot back at them and hurt them, they’re not going to do it,” Waldman said. “The only reason that they’re running rampant is because no one stands up to them. The minute they know they will be met with equal force they won’t do it and it’s simple as that. Most of these criminals that shoot up these schools they are cowards, they are weak-minded individuals. The minute they see a gun they drop it and run out.”

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