Proposed Gun Legislation Could Impact Fire Depts.

ALBANY — Legislation has been proposed in the state Assembly that would make gun giveaways illegal, causing local concern from fire departments that sometimes fundraise by giving out guns to those allowed to carry them.

The legislation, A1413, is sponsored by Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, D-Brooklyn, and is co-sponsored by several Democrats from the New York City area. Simon’s legislation has been referred to the Assembly’s Racing and Wagering Committee; there is not yet companion legislation in the state Senate. No votes have been scheduled.

Currently in New York state, “it is legal to raffle off a firearm in a game of chance,” the legislation’s justification states. “Many times, games such as these are open to all individuals regardless of age. Firearms should not be raffled off in this manner. Firearm-related violence is a significant public health and safety problem, and weapons should not be given away in games of chance.”

As gun giveaways are a common fundraiser for area fire departments and nonprofits, the financial status of these entities could be impacted by any future vote on this proposed legislation. Kennedy Volunteer Fire Department Chief Keith Bean offered counterpoints to legislator Simon’s arguments.

Bean said that local fire departments do not raffle off or give away guns to anyone underage. Background checks are still enforced, he said; it’s not like someone can walk out of an annual fundraiser for a volunteer fire department with a gun immediately in hand, he pointed out.

“I’m not understanding what their purpose is,” Bean said.

He said that the Kennedy Fire Department doesn’t rely much on gun giveaways to fundraise (as a few guns at most are given out yearly), but said that others, including departments in Busti and Frewsburg, do. He also said that departments statewide look to raffling off items that include food, outdoor supplies and often guns to supplement funding.

“These are the (departments) that are really going to be affected,” Bean said. “Some of these towns out there — that’s their fundraiser.”

John Whittaker contributed to this story.

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