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Second Amendment supporters in New York and Michigan recently received completely opposite responses to their gun rights activities. An open carry event in Orion Township, Michigan, went off without a hitch, while a pro-gun rights sign on private property in New York is likely going to spur a First Amendment legal battle.
In Michigan, a rally was organized to bolster Second Amendment open carry rights in the state. Someone in the community apparently did not like the scope of the event and called the local law enforcement agency. When an Orion Country Sheriff’s Deputy showed up, participants became a bit anxious but were pleasantly surprised when the deputy gave them a friendly wave and walked over for a chat. The officer did not ask them for identification or instruct them to disarm.
“You guys are out here scaring people [chuckles] so when people call, I gotta come,” the deputy, Paul Buell, can be heard saying on a YouTube video. “You guys are exercising your freedom of speech, your Second Amendment rights and that’s all good. I’m out to catch bad guys, not people that are exercising their Constitutional rights.”
The “For Liberty Fridays” participants referred to Buell as a “hero” and stated that everyone in the group felt it was an honor to meet the man. The deputy also reportedly noted that guns scare the “uneducated” much in the same manner as someone holding a gas can in one hand and a lighter in the other might. Buell went on to acknowledge all the honking supporters driving by, and appeared to approve. He stated that he grew up in a family of outdoorsmen and hunters and always thought of a firearm as a tool, just like a hammer or screwdriver.
The reception in Michigan was vastly different from what a Somers, New York, man received – in his own front yard. After learning that his gun rights sign was stolen from his yard, he purchased a trail cam to catch the perpetrator. The surveillance camera ultimately captured an unidentified, uniformed New York police officer removing the pro-gun sign from what is allegedly private property. It is not known whether the officer was responsible for the disappearance of similar signs on other occasions.
The sign called for the repeal of the Safe Act, a New York gun control law. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, described the Safe Act this way:
“The SAFE Act stops criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun by requiring universal background checks on gun purchases, increases penalties for people who use illegal guns, mandates life in prison without parole for anyone who murders a first responder, and imposes the toughest assault weapons ban in the country. For hunters, sportsmen, and law abiding gun owners, this new law preserves and protects your right to buy, sell, keep or use your guns.”
The Somers Police Department may have had the legal right to remove the sign if it violated an ordinance, but many still feel the property owner’s First Amendment rights were violated and find it odd that no official letter preceded the sign removal.
The New York man who shared his story online and posted photos said he was within his First Amendment rights to post the sign.
“This is my property,” he said, “although I have to find out if the town claims any rights to property on the edge of the road, as this was about 4-5’ in from the edge of the roadway. I am highly offended my constitutional rights are being violated and I certainly expect some action to be taken.”
The Safe Act opponent stated that while he was once told to remove the sign by a building inspector, he maintains he was ultimately told the display could remain when he called to discuss the matter with the appropriate government office. The New York man is reportedly seeking legal advice about the sign removal prior to initiating any court action or sharing the camera images with law enforcement officials.