New York SAFE Act


“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Bill of Rights, Amendment II

On January 15, 2013 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York SAFE Act into law. The SAFE Act, or Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, increases restrictions on gun ownership and ammunition sales. The SAFE Act redefines an “assault weapon” as a weapon having any military rifle feature. The previous distinction of an assault weapon was a weapon possessing two military rifle features. Therapists are required to report any patient who makes a credible threat to harm either himself or others—the patient’s gun could then be taken from him. Under the SAFE Act, the sale of clips that hold over seven rounds is prohibited. Possession of clips holding seven to ten rounds is permitted, provided the clip cannot be loaded with more than seven rounds. The act also requires all owners of assault weapons (as defined above) to register with the state of New York.

The SAFE Act has met with broad opposition from many fronts. The law was passed hastily and failed to make provisions for police officers who carry magazines of a higher capacity than those now permitted by law. New York sheriffs have become outspoken advocates for the rights of the citizen, expressing concerns about the violation of unalienable rights set in the Second Amendment. Even some anti-gun extremists have spoken against the act due to the violation of rights they believe it purports, and the blatant lack of disregard to the esteemed legal doctrine of doctor-patient privilege. Indeed, the SAFE Act may discourage individuals from seeking help from healthcare professionals out of fear that their weapons could be confiscated. These are the people who most need help—due to the act they may be the ones least likely to do so.

Guns right activists are urging everyone to defy Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new registration mandate. This opposition to the SAFE Act is so strong that it has been dubbed the largest potential act of civil disobedience in state history. As of February 27, over 50 of New York’s 67 counties had passed ordinances or resolutions prohibiting the enforcement of the SAFE Act within their jurisdictions. On February 28, the New York State Supreme Court issued an order that the state of New York must prove the constitutionality of the SAFE Act. If Cuomo and the state are unable to do so, the court will order the dismissal of the act as of April 29, 2013.
The Manhattan District Attorney has thanked legislators for their efforts and said that the act will provide law enforcement with stronger tools to protect communities from gun violence. What do you think? Will banning high-capacity magazines and requiring a registry of assault weapons help to reduce gun violence? Or does the act simply curtail the rights of law abiding citizens?