There has been a mostly quiet refusal of county and local officials to implement and enforce the onerous provisions of the NY State gun law rushed through the state legislature in almost comical fashion after the Newtown, CT, school shooting.

In the rush to legislate, the text of the law failed to exempt police and other law enforcement from limits on the number of rounds in a magazine, and imposed a ludicrous 7-round magazine limit that even the State agreed was unworkable.  That 7-round limit has been declared unconstitutional by a federal court, although the rest of the law was upheld.

But what has slowed the law the most was an upstate insurrection, where almost every county legislature declared its opposition, and many clerks and local police simply ignored the law. Local Sheriff groups have come out against the law as have police unions.

The Ithaca Journal reports on the result:

When a gunman killed 26 people in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, New York’s top elected leaders rushed to toughen state gun laws in a month’s time.

Propelled by the flash of emotions following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the state Legislature approved the NY Safe Act on Jan. 15, 2013, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it hours later.

Now, a year later, the new gun law has yet to be effectively implemented.

Officially called the NY Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, the law regulates weapons ownership, sales, permits and ammunition.

In dozens of interviews with The Ithaca Journal, county sheriffs, county clerks, a retailer, a target shooter and a hunting guide described the law’s shortcomings, administrative delays and a maze of gun permit paperwork that some local public officials predict will take years to sort out.

Those delays and flaws have weakened the enforcement of the SAFE Act — designed to protect New Yorkers from the national horror of mass shootings in schools, shopping centers and theaters.

Locally, sheriffs said they aren’t actively enforcing the SAFE Act, which means they’re not running stings or looking for violations as they would to combat drugs. Instead, they are enforcing violations of the gun law they encounter as they enforce other laws….

Broome Sheriff Harder said the law’s requirement that only seven rounds be kept in a magazine drew criticism because seven-round magazines are not available from manufacturers.

Harder cited what he sees as another flaw, this one limiting private weapon sales.

“If I’m your brother, I can’t sell you my weapon. I can drive over to Pennsylvania and give it to you, and come back over the state line. It’s legal,” Harder said. “But if I’m standing right here in Binghamton, New York, I just can’t give it to you.”

Tompkins County Sheriff Ken Lansing said he thought parts of the law were hastily drafted and that sparked criticism of the effort. He also faults the requirements it places on gun owners.

“Why are we making laws more restrictive?” he asked. “Criminals don’t pay attention to them anyway. Let’s enforce the laws that we have, and have just punishment to deter people from breaking those laws.”

There also is the usual government incompetence at play as the state database is not ready, as The Albany Times Union reports:

Wednesday marks the first anniversary of New York’s SAFE Act, a controversial gun law passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo a year ago in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre.

The day will come and go without a key component of the law going into effect.

Wednesday was originally supposed to trigger a requirement that buyers of ammunition go through background checks before purchasing bullets or shells.

Gun dealers are then supposed to keep records on the sales.

But the deadline has turned out to be a moving target and is delayed until further notice.

The vague timetable for requiring background checks was first reported by the Times Union in October and it was made official around the start of January through a letter to the public from State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico posted on a website outlining the new law.

“The state database is currently under construction and not operational, and prior notice will be given to all sellers on a timely basis before the database is completed and any requirements are relevant,” reads the recently added statement on the SAFE Act site (

News of the delay came as no surprise to gun dealers who late last year suspected that was the case when they noticed they hadn’t received any details about the background check mandate from the State Police, who are charged with enforcing the new law.

There is a significant downside to all this. Non-enforcement does not mean that conduct remains legal. It just makes the likelihood of getting trapped more haphazard, and more discretionary as to the police and prosecutors.

There are a lot of otherwise law-abiding people who have been made criminals in the eyes of the State, and that’s the reality.

(Featured image source: NY SAFE Resolutions)


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