If you want to understand why any new federal gun legislation will fail, as it did yesterday, don’t look at the NRA.

Certainly the NRA plays its advocacy role.

But what motivates grassroots opposition is the belief that government always will overreach, and that any expanded legislation necessarily will be used as a subterfuge to remove guns from the possession of law-abiding citizens.

If there were any doubt about ulterior motives, that doubt was disabused when New York rushed to be the first state to pass post-Newtown gun legislation, with the acronym the SAFE Act.

As we discussed before, the SAFE Act had little to do with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.  Rather, it imposed a set of irrational and arbitrary standards governing lawful possession of guns and ammunition magazines.

Most prominently, the law imposed a 7-round magazine limit for new handgun and magazine purchases  That number almost certainly was unconstitutional because it was a de facto ban on a wide range of common handguns for which there were no 7-round magazines.  Such a backdoor handgun ban confirmed the fears of overreach.

Not surprisingly, that 7-round magazine limit was eliminated because it was unworkable.  In its place was a more common 10-round magazine limit, but the 10-round magazine only can be lawfully loaded with 7-bullets.  Such arbitrary limits do not instill confidence that the overreach is over.

Yet the controversy did not end with the elimination of the 7-round magazine limit.  There have been reports that NY State officials are using mental health and prescription records to confiscate guns even from persons who pose no obvious threat.

The fear of government overreach in NY State is palpable.  Virtually all upstate counties have passed resolutions against the SAFE Act.

Even the Police Officers Union in Albany, the state capital, has come out against the law in a scathing letter issued April 15 (embedded at the bottom of this post)(h/t Rusty Weiss via Tom Bauerle) addressed to NY political leaders:

The Albany Police Officers Union condemns and opposes the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (the “SAFE Act”). Substantively, we believe that it violates fundamental constitutional rights, that it is unduly and purposely burdensome on law-abiding citizens, and that it will not deter criminals or mentally ill individuals from plotting and carrying out bloodshed and violence. Procedurally, we believe that the way in which the bill was rammed into law via an unjustified and expedient “message of necessity”, which circumvented the right and the ability of the citizens of this State to voice their concerns about the bill and have them addressed, is an outrage. This flawed law, and the way in which it was rushed and passed, shows the apparent contempt that those who govern have for the governed, and calls into question whether we truly have a representational government. Morally, we believe that this law is about ideology and politics and not about making anyone any safer. We respectfully demand that you do the right thing and repeal the law….

We as police officers are on the front lines of public safety. Respectfully, none of you are. We see, feel, work, and live with the effects of gun violence in ways that you do not. We believe that you see gun violence as a means to move your agenda and your ambitions forward. You know that the SAFE Act will not work in the way
that you pretend it will. You know that this shameful SAFE Act was about ideology and politics and not about making anyone safer.

When even a Police Officers Union denounces a gun control law, you know there is widespread anxiety about government overreach.

Similarly overbroad efforts in California and elsewhere only stoked concerns that government does not know when to stop.  When gun laws are so complicated and burdensome, law-abiding citizens are at risk of becoming unwitting criminals.

Knowing that the draconian laws will be applied to ordinary citizens but not to well-connected celebrities like David Gregory increases the concerns.

That fear of overreach was palpable yesterday, and it remains.

Abany _NY_ Police Union Letter Opposing SAFE Act