SAFE Act opponents suffer setback in court ruling

gun_store3The Legislative Gazette – by Kelly Fay

Just one day after the deadline for owners of assault weapons to register their firearms, a Supreme Court justice upheld the constitutionality of the controversial SAFE Act — a set of stricter gun regulations adopted by the state in January 2013 following a shooting in Newtown, Conn. that left more than two dozen dead.

Among other measures, the SAFE Act ensures universal background checks; banned the sale of assault weapons; and required those already in possession of such firearms to register them with the state by April 15. While Second Amendment advocates say it violates personal freedoms, the legislation has been upheld in courts, most recently by state Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara in a case brought by Bob Shulz of Queensbury. Shulz — founder and chairman of We the People of New York Inc. — will appeal the decision, the Associated Press reports.  

“New Yorkers deserve to live in a state with a strong set of procedures in place to protect them from gun violence,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “The state Supreme Court agreed with my office that the SAFE Act established those necessary safeguards without infringing on the rights of responsible gun owners, and upheld New York’s comprehensive law. We will continue to defend and expand our state’s efforts to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers by keeping guns out of dangerous hands.”

Features banned under the tougher regulations include the ability to accept a detachable magazine, a second handle and folding or telescoping stock, but owners could avoid registration by modifying their weapon. Those who do not comply with the deadline could face misdemeanor charges or lose their weapon. If noncompliance is determined to be unintentional, a 30-day extension can be applied in some cases.

“Experts such as those in law enforcement, who understand firearms, tell us that each of these assault weapon features serves a specific military combat function. Civilian assault weapons retain the specific features that make these weapons so deadly,” Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Leah Gunn Barrett, said. “These weapons of war have no place in our communities.”

However, Stephen Aldstadt, president of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, or SCOPE, said the weapons New Yorkers were required to register by last week are the most common sporting rifles and are commonly used for hunting, target shooting and competitions.

Aldstadt said of NYAGV, “they are, in my opinion people who don’t particularly know anything about guns, talking about guns.

“These are certainly not military weapons,” he continued. “These are the most common modern type of sporting rifle, and they may look scary to people who don’t know anything about guns, but they are not.”

SCOPE and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association — the country’s largest state affiliate of the National Rifle Association — say they left it up to individual members to decide whether to register their assault weapons last week, and did not encourage them to decide one way or another.

Still, Aldstadt and President of NYSRPA Tom King — who estimate approximately 1.5 million New Yorkers own guns considered military-style under the SAFE Act — say they believe a majority of assault weapon owners chose to ignore the deadline.

King has brought a lawsuit against the state, challenging the SAFE Act. U.S. District Court Judge William Skretney upheld the bill late last year except for a component limiting magazines to seven bullets. NYSRPA and the state have appealed the decision, but police will not enforce the seven round limit until a final ruling is made.

Leading state officials including the attorney general and one of the co-leaders of the Senate commended last week’s court decision, which determined Shulz had failed to prove his individual rights were violated by the reforms, and the governor had exceeded his authority in passing the bill. Cuomo issued a “message of necessity” in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting which allowed the reforms to pass through the Legislature in just one day rather than the three-day waiting period traditionally required.

“As the chief sponsor of the SAFE Act, I am pleased that the courts have once again validated our approach to arming New York with the toughest gun control laws in the country,” Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, said in a statement. “Ultimately, this victory belongs to the countless victims of gun violence and their families, and I will continue to advocate for stronger legislative action that will help make our communities even more secure.”

Proponents of the legislation say the “common sense” measures have lead to the state having the fourth lowest gun-death rate in the country, and cite a recent Siena College Poll which reported two-thirds of New Yorkers support the SAFE Act, but many vocal opponents remain. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb criticized the regulations last week, saying the laws were not working and never will.

“This is a law that was created absent of any public input or participation. It has been costly. It has been confusing. And it has not made New York any safer than it was prior to its enactment,” said Kolb, R-Canandaigua. “Bad legislation does not get better with age, and time will not make the SAFE Act acceptable to those whose constitutional rights have been compromised.”

4 thoughts on “SAFE Act opponents suffer setback in court ruling

  1. ” ‘These are certainly not military weapons,’ he continued.”

    This guy is taking the debate in the wrong direction (maybe intentionally). By arguing that the weapons in question are “certainly not military weapons”, he’s conceding that we don’t have a right to own military weapons. He’s infringing on his own rights before the argument even began.

    He should kept his side of the debate focused on our need to have military weapons, as described in the Bill of Rights, and forced his opponent to argue against an unalienable right that’s etched in stone rather than the appearance of “sporting rifles.”

    That leads me to believe that Stephen Aldstadt is a false opposition shill, and that the “Shooters Committee on Political Education” is just another NRA-type organization that only wants to help in the process of shredding our rights slowly while appearing to defend them.

    As for the law itself, it’s irrelevant because it’s repugnant to the constitution, and therefore should be disobeyed.

    1. And of course, there will be no articles mentioning firearms that don’t reinforce the Sandy Hoax lies within the first two paragraphs.

  2. Shall not be infringed

    Registration is always the first step to confiscation.

    What brought about the Shot Heard Around the World…anyone?

  3. “These weapons of war have no place in our communities.”

    Only the Police and the Federal Goon Squads should have military weapons!

    “As the chief sponsor of the SAFE Act, I am pleased that the courts have once again validated our approach to arming New York with the toughest gun control laws in the country,” Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx [moron]

    Arming New York by removing the arms & the ability to defend oneself from the people. Great victory for the useful idiots.

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