The following letter was published in this week’s issue of the Gazette.
To the editor:
Use of desk staplers will remain illegal in Croton, along with tennis ball machines, nail guns, and Nerf Blasters.
There has been much confusion about the pending changes to Croton Village Code chapter 123. The changes will not affect possession, only the discharge of firearms. Because the definition of “firearm” will not change, only police officers will be legally permitted to staple 2 pieces of paper together within the Croton village limits. Residents should stock up on paper clips, or see the desk sergeant at police headquarters.
The current definition of “firearm” under Croton law is: “any implement which impels with force a bullet, pellet, or projectile of any kind.” Quaint as the definition may seem, this language is what needs to be changed.
Obviously the Croton Police Department is not going around arresting people for use of a Swingline, but they could do so. Laws should not be phrased so as to make everyone in violation of Penal Law, with arrest and prosecution at the discretion of the government. Most states do not have as detailed a definition as the federal law, but neither do they go to the all-encompassing extreme of Croton law. If you want to see the federal definition, google “18 USC 921.”
The changes in Croton affect 3 items, none of which will impact the life of most residents.
The first change is to remove the exemption for supervised instruction and training. Few people in Croton own firearms and those who need training go to facilities such as Blueline in Elmsford: as a practical matter this will only affect a group wanting to learn archery or teens seeking to establish a Nerf Blaster League team (yes, they really exist). Archery has not been a hot topic in Croton since the short-lived campaign a few years ago to murder Bambi’s family. No Croton parent would risk public shaming by allowing their child to be seen with a Nerf Blaster; though if you are willing to risk community opprobrium Super Soakers are still legal.
The second change is to eliminate the exemption for membership groups who want to set up a range. Nobody is proposing a rifle range on Cleveland Drive, so as a practical matter this is not going to affect anybody. Croton couldn’t support a hardware store, so it is unlikely that anyone could write a viable business plan for a pistol range here.
The third change is to eliminate the exemption for discharge of a firearm in defense of property. Few Croton residents have firearms and there are virtually no burglaries in Croton, but victims may no longer use firearms (including staplers) if the robber is only snatching your flat screen or kicking Fido to stop him from barking while the TV is hauled away. If you want to protect Fido or the flat screen, boxing and martial arts are still legal methods of defending your home in Croton.
So if the single problematic part of the law regarding the scope of “firearm” is not being revised, why make an issue of this law after 76 years? We are being trolled by our own Board of Trustees.
In what has become the new normal, periodically the Croton Board of Trustees throws some chum in the water and lets the outrage and anger bubble to the surface. Indeed this was the instant result on Croton social media: lots of talk about gun control, Parkland, and the evils of Trump.
Regulation of firearms is a legitimate public concern, as is the proper balance between public safety and individual rights granted under the Constitution. I am sympathetic to those arguments and although I never understood what an absolutive clausal adjunct is, anyone who can read the Second Amendment knows that Heller was wrong.
That being said, fixing that wrong is a matter dealt with at the national level (and to a lesser extent in Albany). Not every matter is a local matter, and this constant quest to maintain anger and outrage between Croton residents is not good for the long-term health of our community.
The Board of Trustees has initiated a meaningless change to a statute as a pretext to hold a public hearing on matters which will not be affected by the change to the statute.
Because our Croton municipal government is now an inferior adjunct of a national political party, this won’t be the last we see of trustee trolling. Outrage is always in need of fresh red meat.
These changes to Village Code chapter 123 are much ado about nothing, and we should not be snapping at each other about something that makes no difference. Just don’t keep a loaded stapler in the home.