Thousands from the WNY military veteran, law enforcement, Second Amendment civil rights, and Libertarian communities stand behind Ulysees Wingo, Jerome Piwko

June 11, 2019 – BUFFALO, N.Y. – Just five days after announcing preparations to sue the Buffalo School Board on Second Amendment grounds, groups representing more than 3,360 concerned Western New Yorkers are voicing massive support for 2AWNY.COM’s proposed legal action. The prepared lawsuit, announced on Thursday, June 6, targets the Buffalo School Board for unlawful discrimination and abuse levelled at Buffalo Common Council Member Ulysees Wingo and Riverside High School Principal Jerome Piwko. It also alleges that the blanket bans on licensed, trained civilians carrying concealed firearms on public school property, as imposed by the Buffalo School Board and New York State Legislature, are unconstitutional and should be reversed.

The public abuse prompting the lawsuit stems from a May 14, 2019 incident during which Wingo, attempting to comply with school policy, worked with Piwko to responsibly unload and secure his licensed firearm in a locked safe while attending a scholarship ceremony at Riverside High School. Both Buffalo Police and Erie County District Attorney John Flynn have determined that Wingo and Piwko acted responsibly, and so no criminal prosecution is warranted in relation to the incident.

However, this conclusion by law enforcement has not satisfied the anti-Second Amendment moral indignation of the Buffalo School Board. Its members have taken the extreme and abusive action of proposing an 18-month suspension from school property on Wingo, forcing him to miss his son’s upcoming high school graduation. The board has also removed Piwko from active employment as Riverside principal. The fate of Wingo and Piwko will be decided by the Buffalo School Board at their June 19 meeting at 5:30 PM in room 801 of Buffalo City Hall.

More than 3,360 members and supporters of Western New York’s military veteran, law enforcement, Second Amendment civil rights, and Libertarian communities vigorously disagree with the Buffalo School Board, and are voicing strong support for Mr. Wingo, Mr. Piwko, and 2AWNY.COM’s proposed legal action. One such group is Grand Island, N.Y.-based Defensor, Inc., a firearms and tactics training company run by military and law enforcement veterans. Since launching in 2017, Defensor, Inc. has trained hundreds of law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms as members of volunteer security teams at places of worship across New York State, and in their daily lives.

“Nearby states like Ohio have recognized the need for teachers who have passed a background check, been fingerprinted, and completed an approved training curriculum to legally carry concealed firearms on public school property in defense of students and colleagues,” Defensor, Inc. Chief Operations Officer and U.S. Army Veteran Dave DiTullio said. “With a school board vote, New York State school systems can adopt the same model demonstrated by the Ohio-based Faculty / Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response (FASTER) program, which requires those approved to carry concealed firearms on a school campus to outperform police patrol officers on a state-mandated qualification exam. The blanket ban on vetted and trained civilians carrying concealed firearms on public school grounds as imposed by the Buffalo School Board and New York State Legislature is unconstitutional. Furthermore, we owe it to our children to provide the best chance of survival in a worst-case scenario. School shootings are a very real threat and, within the firearms training community, we understand that when seconds count police are minutes away. Trained and vetted teachers and administrators, whether you want to accept it or not, are the best-situated first responders when a lethal threat is present within a school.”

“Erie County District Attorney John Flynn has continued his tenure of exercising both appropriate and just prosecutorial discretion in seeing this controversy for what it is: much ado about nothing,” Frank J. Panasuk said as president of The 1791 Society Organization, one of Western New York’s largest and most active Second Amendment advocacy groups. “This event shows that New York State’s onerous and burdensome firearms laws are designed to harass and infringe upon the human and constitutional rights of law-abiding firearms owners while providing no measurable improvement in community safety. It is apparent that Mr. Wingo went out of his way to comply with the letter of the New York State Penal Law and received nothing but unjustified grief for his compliance with the law. Moreover, the school’s principal obviously did his best to ensure school safety. Any other interpretation of these events amounts to chicanery motivated by an irrational political agenda. It is long past time that New York State starts respecting human and constitutional rights and repeal these absurd and useless firearms laws.”

“Erie County Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE) renounces all actions against Ulysees O. Wingo,” Erie County SCOPE Chair Tony Matuszak said. “Erie County SCOPE invites the Buffalo School Board to a public roundtable for a discussion on historical abuse of power and the simple man’s right to defend himself from such.”

“Contrary to the misguided belief of the Buffalo School Board, the mere presence of a firearm inside a school does not immediately and always translate into imminent danger for students,” Libertarian NY-27 Congressional Candidate Duane Whitmer said. “As shown by reliable studies and common sense, well-trained and responsible individuals carrying concealed firearms are a net positive for public schools, not a net negative. It’s time for the Buffalo School Board to stop this childish game of public harassment against Mr. Wingo and Mr. Piwko, who clearly acted responsibly. Furthermore, the Buffalo School Board and New York State Legislature need to scrap their blanket bans on lawful concealed carry in public schools and go back to the drawing board. As explained by U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez several months ago, bans on Second Amendment exercise that aren’t narrowly tailored, like those in Buffalo and across New York State, are unconstitutional, and this is what the federal courts will find if 2AWNY.COM’s lawsuit moves forward.”

“More than 3,360 Western New Yorkers vehemently disagree with the Buffalo School Board’s abusive and discriminatory treatment of Mr. Wingo and Mr. Piwko, and their collective view is constitutionally and morally accurate,” 2AWNY.COM Civil Rights Advocate Steve Felano said. “When school board members meet on June 19, they need to entirely reverse the school premises ban against Mr. Wingo and restore Mr. Piwko to active employment as Riverside principal. Otherwise, with the participation of Mr. Wingo and Mr. Piwko, and the support of thousands of Western New Yorkers, 2AWNY.COM would be more than pleased to invite the federal court system to review the underlying, unconstitutional concealed carry ban that sparked this unfortunate situation.”

The most persuasive and binding guidance available on concealed carry in schools comes from the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case D.C. v. Heller, in which the court majority determined that the Second Amendment protects a fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms, disconnected from militia service. The majority opinion noted that the court’s decision in the Heller case “should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” Nowhere in this guidance does the court expressly hold that a blanket, non-narrowly tailored ban on all licensed civilians carrying lawfully-owned firearms on public school premises is constitutional, and that’s because it clearly is not.

For evidence of this, we need only look at the decision arrived at in Duncan v. Becerra by U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez of the Southern District of California on March 29, 2019. In the context of the aforementioned case, now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Benitez held that California Section 32310’s blanket, non-narrowly tailored ban on so-called ‘high-capacity’ magazines, really standard capacity magazines, “is not narrowly tailored; it is not tailored at all. It fits like a burlap bag. It is a single-dimensional, prophylactic, blanket thrown across the population of the state. As such, § 32310 fails strict scrutiny and violates the Second Amendment.”

Earlier in his decision, Judge Benitez provided further support for his conclusion: “Strict scrutiny requires the Government to prove that the restriction on a constitutional right furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Mance v. Sessions, 896 F.3d 699, 705-06 (5th Cir. 2018), pet’n for cert. filed (Nov. 19, 2018) (applying strict scrutiny in Second Amendment case). California’s ban on magazines able to hold more than 10 rounds fails strict scrutiny…more certain, however, is that the ban is not narrowly tailored or the least restrictive means of achieving these interests. Instead it is a categorical ban on acquisition and possession for all law-abiding, responsible, ordinary citizens. Categorical bans are the opposite of narrowly tailored bans.”

Aside from the fact that the Benitez decision strikes down, as unconstitutional, the 10-round limit prescribed by the SAFE Act, which 2AWNY.COM is in the process of overturning, it applies directly to the categorical, overly-restrictive, blanket ban on concealed carry by licensed, trained, and qualified individuals in Buffalo’s public schools, and those all across New York State. Why, for instance, if a citizen completes the rigorous FASTER program out of Ohio – which mandates that licensees outperform duly-appointed state police officers on their qualification exam and pass stringent scenario-based active killer response and medical training – is said citizen subject to a total ban on carrying their duly licensed weapon onto public school property?

The answer is that said blanket, non-narrowly tailored ban simply feeds the moral indignation of Buffalo and New York State progressives who believe that the state should hold a monopoly on defensive force inside public schools, not because any reliable data indicates that such a ban translates into safer schools for students. To the contrary, the relevant data clearly shows that schools allowing lawful concealed carry are extremely safe. Per Judge Benitez, because the blanket ban on lawful concealed carry in Buffalo and New York State public schools is not narrowly tailored or the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government interest and therefore fails under strict scrutiny in the courts, it offends the Second Amendment and is unconstitutional.

To learn more about any of the above, please contact Steve Felano at (518) 852-1863 or [email protected].

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2AWNY is a force multiplier for the numerous Second Amendment civil rights advocacy enterprises forming the backbone of Western New York’s vibrant gun culture. We act as a 2A news and information distribution, policy analysis, and organizational driver for the many interest groups seeking to defend and expand Second Amendment civil rights throughout the region. 2AWNY is dedicated to assisting in the organization, promotion, and funding of legal challenges to the unconstitutional New York State gun control regime. We seek to make Western New York the epicenter of New York State’s Second Amendment civil rights renaissance. Learn more at WWW.2AWNY.COM.