Gun Control

Three Arrests Illustrate the Impact of New York's Silly Seven-Round Ammunition Limit

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Office of the Governor

The Washington Free Beacon notes three cases in which gun owners were arrested for violating New York's new limit on the number of rounds you can put in a magazine. If these arrests are typical, it seems safe to conclude that the seven-round rule is just as silly as it sounds.

Last May state police pulled over Gregory Dean, a 31-year-old resident of Hopewell Junction, in New Lebanon because his license plate was not illuminated. According to a statement from state Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson), "Troopers found Dean with a legally registered pistol with a magazine that contained nine bullets, two more than the recently passed 'SAFE Act' allows." It's a bit mysterious how the troopers knew the magazine contained more than seven rounds. According to a state police guide issued last September, "Unless there is probable cause to believe the law is being violated, there is no justification for checking a magazine to determine whether or not it contains more than 7 rounds….Absent some indication of criminal activity, there is no right to inspect the contents of a magazine to ensure that it meets the requirements under the Safe Act." That may explain why Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka decided not to prosecute Dean for this offense, which is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $200 fine.  

Last month's arrest of Paul Wojdan in Buffalo seems similarly suspect. Wojdan was legally carrying a pistol in a car driven by his girlfriend, who was pulled over for speeding. While the officers were justified in checking that Wojdan had a permit, it's not clear how they determined that his magazine contained 10 rounds instead of seven. Here is what the state police guide says about a situation like this:

If the weapon is one for which a permit is required, police will be justified in checking the permit to ensure that the person lawfully possesses the firearm. If a permit cannot be produced, the officer would be legally justified in seizing the firearm and conducting an inventory of its contents. In this case, the inventory would include checking the magazine in order to account for each round. However, if the person produces a permit and there are no indications of unlawful conduct, an inspection of the magazine would be unnecessary. In this case, the weapon should be secured temporarily, in the same condition as it was found, for the duration of the stop and returned to the motorist at the conclusion of the encounter. 

Another arrest cited by the Beacon involved a man whom Utica police also charged with illegal possession of a loaded handgun. In such cases, according to the state police, seizing the firearm and inspecting the magazine would be legally justified.

So of these three arrests, two involved otherwise law-abiding people whose only crime was exceeding an arbitrary ammunition limit, while the other one involved someone who would have been arrested anyway but now faces an additional, relatively minor charge. Either way, it is hard to see any potential public safety benefit.