WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - It's a dispute over the right to bear arms and state law enforced at the gate to federal property at Fort Drum.
When a driver from Kentucky delivered telephone poles to Fort Drum on November 15, a gun rights group says his Second Amendment rights were violated.
"He never thought the installation's military police would betray him for simply exercising his fundamental right to bare arms," said Steve Felano, founder of 2AWNY.
In Watertown Thursday, Felano talked about who state police have now identified as 40 year old Martin Barrett, a Kentucky delivery driver who, when making a delivery to Fort Drum, admitted he had an unloaded firearm in a locked box, as he says he's done at many other installations.
Military police called state police. He then had his gun taken by troopers and Barrett was charged with possessing an illegal weapon. The group says the incident was unconstitutional.
"This whole thing is a joke, it's a sham. No one on the side of the government in this instance should feel good about what happened," said Duane Whitmer, Erie county Libertarian Party chair and candidate for the 27th Congressional District.
Why was Barrett charged? The state of Kentucky does not require pistol permits. New York state does and Barrett didn't have one.
Fort Drum released a statement to 7 News, saying, "It is important to be aware that firearms must be carried in accordance with the laws of the state you are visiting, not the federal laws of the installation that may be your destination."
The gun rights group says Fort Drum military police overstepped their bounds.
"This is a really big issue. We are not going to tolerate the federal government disarming citizens," said James Ostrowski, attorney.
State police say he was not legally carrying the gun in New York because he didn’t have a permit. The Second Amendment rights group cites the law called the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits using military to enforce the law - exactly why Fort Drum officials say they called state police.
"When Mr. Barrett offers up the information and now they have information knowing that this guy is in illegal possession of a handgun, it's duty bound for him to make notification to state police," said Trooper Jack Keller, state police.
Barret agreed to pay a fine and surrender his weapon for destruction.
"This is precisely the type of tyrannical and unconstitutional activity that this nation's founding generation enacted the Second Amendment to guard against. Such government overreach will not be tolerated," said Felano.
The gun rights group says it plans to file a lawsuit and send formal letters to the Jefferson County District Attorney, Fort Drum's garrison commander, state police, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, and the president, asking that they push for correcting any civil rights violations.
However, state police and Fort Drum say they followed the law.