Short on Ammo

N.Y. gun controls


After the December 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, many politicians clamored for more gun control, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was quicker than the rest. Cuomo pushed new restrictions through the state legislature so fast that many of the people who voted for the bill—which he signed into law on the second full day of the 2013 legislative session—did not have a chance to read it.

It showed. In addition to expanding New York's "assault weapon" ban, the law reduced the state's limit on magazine capacity from 10 rounds to seven. As the governor explained in his State of the State address, "Nobody needs 10 bullets to kill a deer." But legislators neglected to include the standard exemption for current and former police officers, who complained bitterly about the lack of a double standard.

"As a law enforcement officer for over 20 years," said Norman Seabrook, president of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, "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." He warned that the magazine limit "handcuffs the law enforcement community from having the necessary ammunition needed to save lives."

Michael Palladino, head of the state Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, likewise worried that the law would "restrict law-abiding retired cops from protecting themselves and the public." State Sen. Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), a former New York City police captain, immediately introduced legislation to fix the problem, saying, "You can't give more ammo to the criminals."

Why were Seabrook and Adams so confident that the new limit would have no impact on criminals? Possibly because many millions of magazines that Cuomo would consider excessively large are already in circulation. The law takes account of that reality, saying people can keep pre-existing 10-round magazines as long as they do not put more than seven rounds in them.