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New Yorkers In Upstate 'Bear Country' Oppose Gun Ban in Parks

Gunfire has long echoed in New York's Adirondack Mountains. Children blast skeet from the sky after school and parents compete at the shooting range. In the fall, hunters in fluorescent orange fan through the forests, stalking deer. June's U.S. Supreme Court ruling establishing a constitutional right to carry weapons in public seemed like a vindication of an upstate, gun-centric way of life. The feeling was short-lived, Reuters reports.

The ruling appalled Democratic leaders, who said it would lead to more gun violence. In response, New York lawmakers scrapped the parts of its gun-license laws the court found unconstitutional and created a long list of "sensitive locations" and "restricted locations" that turn many places into gun-free zones, including big chunks of the Adirondacks.

Having any kind of firearm in these places will be a felony crime after Sept. 1. California, New Jersey and other states are watching closely as they draft similar plans. Powerful gun-owners' rights groups see any infringements as targets for lawsuits. "It pretty much means I've got to leave the firearm at home," said Rick Bennett, who sells guns and fishing tackle from his store in the hamlet of North Creek. The Supreme Court ruling had allowed for gun bans in limited sensitive areas, such as schools or courthouses. The New York law went much further, adding hospitals, bars, concert venues, and parks. Bennett's house is in the middle of the largest park in the contiguous U.S.: Adirondack Park, a mountain range covering a fifth of the state's landmass. It is larger than several U.S. states, and home to 130,000 people and countless bobcats, beavers, muskrats and cottontail rabbits. Bears patrol the hiking trails. People who run summer camps, now in a new sensitive location, wonder if popular riflery courses for children are now a crime. At Mount Van Hoevenberg, a former Winter Olympics venue inside the park, it is unclear how the annual biathlon, a sport mixing skiing with target shooting, can proceed. It will be a felony to have a gun at sports venues.


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