The owner of a Bergen gun shop has joined seven other plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed against Gov. Andrew Cuomo claiming abuse of power during the COVID-19 crisis.
The suit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court by Buffalo attorneys James Ostrowski and Michael Kuzma.
2ANYS, a Buffalo-based organization dedicated to civil rights and preserving 2nd Amendment rights, was the main initiator of the suit.
Among the plaintiffs is Brandon Lewis, who owns The Firing Pin in Bergen.
Lewis said he was contacted by 2ANYS founder Steve Felano about joining the lawsuit.
“He saw the situation we were in and we had a few conference calls with that attorney before launching this,” Lewis said. “We want to remind them that our rights don’t go away during something like this.”
The 50-page lawsuit argues that Cuomo abused his emergency powers, that his directives were unlawful and that the state Constitution gives legislative power to the legislature only, not the governor.
Among the claims, the state government has:
n Unlawfully compelled firearms retailers to close.
n Illegally shut down pistol permitting offices.
n Banned the purchase of ammunition.
n Canceled the right to public assembly.
n Nullified the free exercise of religion.
n Illegally compelled citizens to wear masks in public.
n Unlawfully forced the closure of businesses.
Also named in the lawsuit along with Cuomo are Attorney General Letitia James; state police Superintendent Keith Corlett; Monroe County, N.Y. Pistol Permit Licensing Officer Douglas A. Randall; Monroe County, N.Y. Sheriff Todd K. Baxter; Monroe County, N.Y. Clerk Jamie Romeo; New York State ‘PAUSE Enforcement Task Force’ Investigator Correa (who the suit alleges harassed employees of The Firing Pin and compelled the closure of the firearms retailer); and Empire State Development Corporation.
Plaintiffs include Lewis, Felano, The Firing Pin, Rochester radio personality Shannon Joy, LibertyMovement.Org CEO James Ostrowski, Lisa Reeves of Ithaca-based Big Red Barbershop, Monroe County resident Seth Duclos and Erie County Libertarian Chairman Duane Whitmer, who is running in a special election for New York’s 27th Congressional District.
Felano said he hopes the lawsuit ends “this farce” initiated by Cuomo.
“New York State government agents have been successful in leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to achieve an illegal and complete cancellation of the Second Amendment,” Felano said in a press statement. “This has been made possible via a combination of pre-existing, unconstitutional regulation and recent COVID-19 shutdown mandates forcing the closure of firearms manufacturers, retailers, and pistol permitting offices. This farce ends today and is proof positive that government agents cannot be trusted to responsibly regulate civilian Second Amendment exercise without effectively and unlawfully eviscerating the fundamental human right to keep and bear arms.”
The lawsuit is similar to others filed throughout the country that claim state governments have been abusing their powers.
In New York, the NRA filed a suit against Cuomo April 4 after he listed gun stores as a nonessential business under the state’s stay-at-home order.
Lewis said he is doubtful the suit will be heard as the governor and state agencies “don’t want any of these cases to happen.”
“But I think it’s important that we put this out there,” he said.
Asked about the lawsuit during a Monday news conference in Buffalo, Cuomo said he hadn’t seen or heard about it, and appeared dismissive of the abuse of power allegations.
“Look, a lot of people say a lot of things, right?,” he said. “That falls into the category of a lot of people say a lot of things.”
Lewis said his business is now open but is limited to curbside pickup. The range remains closed.
Lewis became a social media star and face of the gun rights movement when he attended a pro-gun rally in Virginia in January. He carried a .50-caliber sniper rifle that was five feet long and weighed 30 pounds.
Resulting images of Lewis with the gun were plastered on social media, leading to interviews with The New York Post, Washington Post and regional media outlets.
Lewis said the pandemic also has forced him to delay his plans for a multi-use gun club on 22 acres off Harlow Road in Batavia, former site of Polar Wave snowtubing park.
Lewis said the town has not been able to meet about his plans. He had been hoping to open by this summer.