Amish Farmer: Cuomo’s SAFE Act Discriminates Against Us

SAFE Act requires background check, photo ID for gun purchases

Amish dairy farm
Amish dairy farm / Wikimedia Commons
April 27, 2015

An Amish farmer in New York claims that he and other members of his faith are being discriminated against by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act.

The SAFE Act requires a National Instant Criminal Background Check on all gun purchases. All buyers are required to have a background check and to present photo identification.

Many Amish refuse to have photographs taken of themselves for religious reasons.

This provision of the SAFE Act affects the Amish way of life—which for many includes farming and hunting—since it prevents them from legally obtaining firearms.

The SAFE Act also requires a NCIS check for private sales, so the sale of guns between the Amish is illegal.

The Washington Free Beacon interviewed Freeman Gingerich, of West Edmeston, N.Y., who expressed his vexation at his inability to purchase a gun to hunt. He lives with eight family members, four of whom are hunters.

Gingerich said his Second Amendment rights are being denied based on his religion.

After going to several gun shops, Gingerich said he was told by the employees and their managers that they could not help him due to the SAFE Act.

"They couldn’t do anything for us without a photo ID," Gingerich said. He said a religious exemption is needed for the Amish in New York because "we don’t have photos taken of ourselves."

"There are 60 families in our community that are in the same situation," said Gingerich. He estimates 90 percent of the Amish throughout New York are also being denied their Second Amendment rights.

Gingerich said in the past they would buy guns from other Amish.

New York has the fifth largest Amish population in the country, according to the latest statistics from Amish America. "No state has seen more recent growth in settlements than New York, where 15 new settlements have been established since 2010," according to an analysis of the census of the Amish population.

Gingerich and his father, Raymond, have been in contact with a Second Amendment group in New York, the Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE), for help with fighting the SAFE Act.

A meeting between SCOPE’s lawyer and the two men is planned this week, the Free Beacon has learned.

"We are going to wait to get advice from our attorney to see how to proceed," said Harold "Budd" Schroeder, chairman of the board of SCOPE.

"The Amish are being discriminated against because of a religious belief," Schroeder said. "Because of their religious belief, they are being denied their Second Amendment rights."

"The government is reversing the trend of the old saying of God and Country and is putting government ahead of God—and this is wrong," Schroeder said.

Schroeder said he believes a legislative change, on either the state or federal level, may be needed. Since the NCIS is a federal database and the SAFE Act requires a background check in NCIS, a change or exemption on the federal level could also be warranted.

"The SAFE Act stops criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun by requiring universal background checks on gun purchases … For hunters, sportsmen, and law abiding gun owners, this new law preserves and protects your right to buy, sell, keep or use your guns," Cuomo is quoted on the SAFE Act’s website.

Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard said the SAFE Act "certainly doesn’t" safeguard the rights of hunters and law-abiding gun owners.

An opponent of the SAFE Act, Howard said the situation with the Amish in New York "is just an example that [shows] the SAFE Act was passed without proper vetting, without talking to the people," and also without talking to law enforcement and those knowledgeable about gun rights and the Second Amendment.

"The SAFE Act was not just about the Second Amendment; it’s about the entire Constitution," Howard said.

"I don’t recall any crimes by the Amish," he said of his 24 years with the New York State Police.

Among all the counties Howard served, two counties had large Amish populations.

The Amish "are very law-abiding citizens, so they don’t want to violate this law," Schroeder said. He added, "they don’t believe in the right to self-defense. They can’t even take another person’s life even at the expense of their own. Generally speaking, they are so involved in their teachings, they are not allowed to use violence against another."