Gun Control

State Police Struggle to Understand New York's Crazy New Gun Law

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Office of the Governor

New York's SAFE Act, hurriedly approved last January because Gov. Andrew Cuomo was determined to be the first out of the gate with ill-considered new gun controls after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, is a pretty complicated piece of legislation. Who knew? That is not a rhetorical question. Legislators passed the bill so quickly that most of them did not have a chance to read it, which is one reason they have already felt compelled to amend it repeatedly. With those changes piled on top of provisions that interact with existing laws in tricky ways, it is doubtful that the average New Yorker understands what the law requires, allows, and forbids. Even the cops are confused, to judge from a new guide to the SAFE Act prepared by the state police. The introduction to the 17-page document, which was released last month, notes that "the SAFE Act has raised questions from members of the field relating to the scope of the Act and its effect on those police officers who will have the responsibility to enforce the various provisions." A few highlights from this guide to those perplexed by the godawful mess that is the Safe Amunition and Firearms Enforcement Act:

Haven't you always wanted an assault weapon? Because the law broadened the definition of "assault weapon," guns that were lawfully owned prior to January 15 will become contraband unless they are registered with the government by April 15, 2014. Once a gun is registered, "the person who registered it may keep the assault weapon for life" but may not transfer it to anyone except a police officer, a licensed dealer, or a resident of a state where the gun is legal. And in case you were wondering, "There are no exceptions that allow a person to transfer an Assault Weapon to an immediate family member."

Magazine prescriptions. It used to be legal to own a magazine holding more than 10 rounds if it was manufactured prior to 1994 (the last time the legislature restricted the size of ammunition feeding devices). Now it is a Class A misdemeanor, unless the magazine is "permanently modified" by next January 15 so that it accepts no more than 10 rounds. Because it turned out that the seven-round magazines Cuomo wanted to mandate do not exist, 10-round magazines, which the original version of the SAFE Act banned, are now allowed, provided you put no more than seven rounds in them. Loading eight, nine, or 10 rounds makes you subject to penalties ranging from a $200 fine to a year in jail, depending on where the magazine is located (at home or elsewhere) and whether it is a repeat offense.

Guess how many rounds I have. "Unless there is probable cause to believe the law is being violated," the guide warns, "there is no justification for checking a magazine to determine whether or not it contains more than 7 rounds."

Ignorance of the law is an excuse. If you fail to register a gun that was not an "assault weapon" under the old definition but is an "assault weapon" under the new definition, you have committed a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. But this charge applies only if you "knew that the weapon was of the type that must be registered and failed to register it." Likewise, "if a person 1) mistakenly believed that possession of a pre-94 magazine was still legal; and if, 2) he or she either surrenders the magazine or lawfully disposes of it within 30 days after being notified by law enforcement or a county official that the magazine is unlawful, he or she may not be charged." To avoid criminal liability, in other words, gun owners should not read the statute or summaries of it.

Cops are exempt from the gun rules they will be enforcing. Although the legislature, in its haste, initially neglected to include the usual exceptions for active-duty and retired law enforcement officers, it later rectified that situation, restoring the double standard that cops take for granted. Hence current and former cops may possess "assault weapons," put 10 rounds in 10-round magazines, and use even bigger magazines that are denied to mere citizens. After all, it would be crazy to expect cops to obey arbitrary restrictions that no criminal will follow, as Norman Seabrook, president of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, explained in January. "As a law enforcement officer for over 20 years," Seabrook said, "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."

How well do you know your brother? The SAFE Act requires background checks for all gun transfers, meaning formerly private sales have to be arranged through licensed firearms dealers. The only exceptions are for transfers to "immediate family members," which do not include siblings, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, or cousins. Violating this provision is a Class A misdemeanor. That means you can go to jail for a year if you give your grandson a hunting rifle. But at least "police are not exempt from the requirements relating to private sales of firearms."

Your therapist can strip you of your Second Amendment rights. If a mental health professional thinks you may harm yourself or others, he is required to report you. If the county's director of community services agrees with that judgment (as any ass-covering bureaucrat is apt to do), he is required to pass the report on to the Division of Criminal Justice Services, which is required to check whether you hold a pistol permit. If you do, the state police are required to notify the local licensing authority. Although the state police guide says the licensing authority will then "make a determination as to whether to suspend or revoke the subject's license," the SAFE Act actually gives local officials no discretion in the matter, saying they "shall issue an order suspending or revoking such license." And altough a permit is required only for handguns, the guide notes, "if a person becomes ineligible to hold a pistol permit, the Safe Act requires the person to surrender all firearms to police, including all rifles and shotguns for which no license or registration is required."

[Thanks to Richard Feldman for the tip.]

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44 responses to “State Police Struggle to Understand New York's Crazy New Gun Law

  1. Even the cops are confused…

    This, of course, won’t stop them from stringently enforcing whatever varying guesses they have for its meaning.

  2. Why does anyone live in that shithole state?

    1. Actually, I grew up in central NY and I love the physical State itself, but the assholes in Albany with the influence of “the big apple” have ruined it for living there. It is truly a stunningly beautiful state in many places. I particularly love the Adirondack Mountains. I live in Ohio now, which I kind of detest, but I will never move back to NY. What is sickening to me is that if you ask any of the people who support the political climate there if they think they are free, they would certainly say “yes, of course”. That is because freedom to them means that the things they want to do and want to own and approve of are allowed. They can not fathom that someone else’s interests and activities and desires might differ from theirs and to the extent they do, those people are just wrong.

      1. “That is because freedom to them means that the things they want to do and want to own and approve of are allowed. They can not fathom that someone else’s interests and activities and desires might differ from theirs and to the extent they do, those people are just wrong.”

        This. I personally don’t like drugs but could probably careless if they were legal. Granted i don’t know enough of the issues to weigh in with an educated opinion but it don’t care what people personally do as long as they don’t infringe on others liberty. Others can’t fathom this for whatever reason

    2. Hm, yeah, why does anyone live in one of the largest and most diverse economies and cultural environments in the world. That’s a puzzler, alright.

      (ps. Would you care to try defending your state’s politicians?)

      1. As a native born resident of New York, that made me laugh. You’re from downstate, aren’t you?

        1. Well, 70% of the state’s population does live there.

          1. Not very “diverse” of them, clumping up and all.

        2. Yeah, I’m from the city. I don’t know much about upstate beyond it has wine and dairy farms and Cornell and Albany. But my girlfriend, who is originally from northern Louisiana, says that upstate NY hillbillies are scarier than Louisiana rednecks, which is really saying something.

          1. All the Louisiana rednecks I’ve ever met have been warm, generous, hardworking, and hospitable.

            -jcr

      2. I have Rand Paul, so Im one step ahead of most other states.

      3. (ps. Would you care to try defending your state’s politicians?)

        I live in Maryland, I can defend nothing.

        On behalf of everyone who didn’t vote in these scum, let me WE’RE SORRY.

        1. i live in IL i dont have one good word about any of them -_-

    3. Spumoni Gardens

  3. “””As a law enforcement officer for over 20 years,” Seabrook said, “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””

    Words were said. They were put in a certain order. They nevertheless failed to achieve any sort of coherent meaning.

    Let’s try that again =

    1. I am a cop

    2. Cops enforce laws

    3. This is a law

    4. As a cop, we like laws.

    5. ‘Regular citizens’ follow the laws.

    6. This law will tell regular citizens to use fewer bullets.

    7. However, the people who use bullets for crimes, aka ‘bad guys’, will no doubt ignore this law.

    8. Therefore, we will be enforcing the law on people who aren’t going to be committing crimes anyway. Which is an important thing.

    Nope, doesn’t make sense that way either.

    1. That’s politician speak for “FYTW.”

    2. I wonder if he even realizes the implication of what he said.

      1. Really? Cause I have no doubts that he’s either 100% clueless or knows exactly what he said, and said it in a way to try to appeal to everyone.

    3. Wasn’t that guy who shot up a courthouse in West Virginia two days ago former law enforcement?

  4. Even the cops are confused…

    It’s a feature, not a bug. If nobody understands it, then cops and judges can arrest those who might be causing problems for them for pretty much any reason they dream up.

  5. Cops are exempt from the gun rules they will be enforcing.

    Of course the Kning’s men are exempt.
    Equal protection? FYTW

  6. Of course, the cops will use 10 round (or greater) magazines because sometimes it takes that many rounds to kill a dog.

    1. No, dogs you can usually take down in one or two shots because they will sit there a few feet away wagging their tails while you scream STOP AGRESSING ME DOG and shoot it.

      Cops need 10+ round magazines for panic fire when a 98-year-old man comes out of his house to get the paper in the morning.

      1. Don’t forget those crazy kids with the Evil Weed and BATH SALTZ!

  7. Sounds like a well thought plan that I’m sure won’t lead to any problems.

    Score one for the good guys.

  8. New York politicians – making living in Michigan look better and better. Especially if you own guns.

  9. Once a gun is registered, “the person who registered it may keep the assault weapon for life” but may not transfer it to anyone except a police officer, a licensed dealer, or a resident of a state where the gun is legal.

    Why are police this special class of people that are allowed to engage in self defense?

    1. Because they’re not a bunch of nasty criminals like every single one of the rest of us?

      1. Are there any studies on the rate of crime by LEO v general population?

        1. Actual crime, or convictions?

          1. Either would be interesting.

    2. Agents of the state are birds of a feather.

    3. I could maybe, just maybe, see giving current-duty cops an exception; I wouldn’t particularly like it, but it wouldn’t particularly be worth fighting. But retired cops?! It’s a job, not a goddamned title of nobility. Once you’re retired, YOU STOP BEING A COP.

      The real answer, of course, is probably that exceptions like this are necessary to get the support of cops for the bill.

      1. I don’t support exemptions for anything except *on-duty* cops. Once you clock out you stop being a cop.

  10. Of course the law is foolish, they were only aiming do ‘do something’ and they accomplished that. That the law is equal parts unworkable and violative of people’s basic liberties is of course less important.

    1. Wow, where was this guy in yesterday’s NPS thread?

  11. “The only exceptions are for transfers to “immediate family members,” which do not include siblings, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, or cousins. Violating this provision is a Class A misdemeanor. That means you can go to jail for a year if you give your grandson a hunting rifle.”

    What if I give it to my son, who then gives it to his son.

    Given the NY’s lead on gay marriage, I foresee another way around this issue.

  12. Unless it’s a violent crime, ignorance of the law should almost always be a valid excuse.

    1. especially with the tens of thousands of laws that exist today. Some estimate there maybe even more than a 100,000 criminal laws

  13. I and my friends watch the soccer game clips at YouTube forever, because they have in good quality.

    http://tacosandtequilalv.com/nfljerseys/?id=775

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