In my column this week, I asked why police officers should be allowed to have so-called high-capacity magazines if they have no defensive value. Since "no one needs" to fire more than X number of rounds before reloading (and assuming that "need" should define what people are allowed to possess), why not apply the same limit to everyone? It looks like the New York legislature, which this week reduced the state's magazine limit from 10 rounds to seven, did take an evenhanded approach—but only by accident. According to DNAinfo.com and WABC, the ABC station in New York, legislators were in such a rush to impose new gun restrictions that they forgot to exempt active-duty and retired law enforcement officers from the new magazine rule. Whoops.
Cops are complaining about the lack of a double standard:
"As a law enforcement officer for over 20 years, I understand the importance of instituting a new policy on mandating the limits of bullets that a regular citizen can possess, but as a matter of fact the bad guys are not going to follow this law," said Norman Seabrook, president of the correction officers union, the city's second largest.
"The way the current legislation is drafted, it actually handcuffs the law enforcement community from having the necessary ammunition needed to save lives," he said. "We must not allow this to happen."
Roy Richter, president of the Captains Endowment Association and a lawyer, said, "It puts retired officers in a position that the clip they were issued by the NYPD, carried for their careers and were fully trained on, is now considered contraband."
Michael J. Palladino, who is head of the NYPD's 6,000-member detectives union and president of the state's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which represents 50,000 members, joined in calling for Cuomo and the legislature to immediately amend the law.
"Gun reform must prevent criminals and the deranged from getting illegal weapons—not restrict law-abiding retired cops from protecting themselves and the public," Palladino said.
"I support the governor in gun reform, however the new legislation restricts law enforcement officers who retire, and that could jeopardize the safety of the public."
DNAinfo.com calls the absence of a law-enforcement exemption a "loophole in the law," but in fact it is the very opposite of a loophole: Cops are outraged at the possibility that they might be treated the same as "a regular citizen" under the law. One has to wonder: If, as Seabrook says, the new magazine limit will have no impact on criminals and if, as Seabrook and Palladino agree, more than seven rounds sometimes are necessary to "save lives," what justification can there be for imposing this arbitrary restriction not just on "law-abiding retired cops" but on law-abiding citizens in general?
A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo told WABC, "We are still working out some details of the law, and the exemption will be included. Currently no police officer is in violation." I'm not sure why he says that, since the part of the law that bans pre-existing magazines holding more than 10 rounds is "effective immediately." According to WABC, "Nearly every law enforcement agency in the state carries handguns that have a 15-round capacity." The provision covering magazines that hold eight, nine, or 10 rounds takes effect on April 15. Contrary to what Richter says, such magazines won't actually be "contraband" for people who already have them, but their owners will be expected to put no more than seven rounds in them at a time. I am serious: That is what the law says. A prohibited "large capacity ammunition feeding device" is, among other things, a magazine legally obtained before April 15 that "contains more than seven rounds of ammunition."
It is implausible enough to suggest that a criminal—who by definition has no compunction about breaking the law, who is not legally permitted to possess firearms to begin with (if he has a felony record), and who is highly motivated to obtain the tools of his trade—would be deterred from obtaining a 10-round magazine by the legislature's new dictate, especially since plenty of them will remain in circulation. It is beyond fanciful to suppose that, having obtained a 10-round magazine, a criminal would think twice about putting more than seven rounds in it because legislators said he shouldn't. But in New York state, that whiff of a pretext suffices to abridge people's Second Amendment rights and, according to the cops clamoring for an exemption to the new limit, put lives at risk.
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association says it is "actively working to enact changes to this law that will provide the appropriate exemptions from the law for active and retired law enforcement officers." State Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), who is a former NYPD captain but nevertheless does not know which constitutional amendment protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures, told WABC he will introduce legislation restoring the double standard to which cops have become accustomed. "You can't give more ammo to the criminals," he explains. I thought that was the whole point of this law.