New York's 'SAFE' Act: The 'Rape' of the Second Amendment

In January, the New York State Legislature passed the Orwellian-sounding "SAFE" (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement) Act.  The act was debated in closed session without committee hearings, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law within an hour of its passage -- after waiving the required three-day public comment period.  Cuomo bragged that New York now has the "toughest assault weapons ban" in the country but claimed that the law respects the Second Amendment and preserves the rights of "hunters and sportsmen."  The former is true; the latter is a bald-faced lie.  Even if you do not live in New York, you should be very worried, because the SAFE Act is a harbinger of what Democrats in the federal government will do nationwide if they can.

The SAFE Act is far worse than you might imagine.  Harold "Budd" Schroeder, member of the NRA Board of Directors from New York, described the law as "the rape of our gun rights."  That is no exaggeration.  The law is as harsh as (or harsher than) the gun laws of some European nations that do not have a Bill or Rights or a Second Amendment. 

The most widely reported provision of the law is the total ban on the sale of military-style rifles classified as "assault weapons," effective Jan. 15.  The provision forever prohibits anyone other than a law enforcement agency from acquiring such weapons, including the popular hunting and target variants of the AR-15 rifle.  Current owners of such rifles must register them with the state by 2014, and the registration must be renewed every five years.  This gives the state a list of persons from which to confiscate them in the future, and the five-year renewal provision gives the state an excuse to find ways to deny ownership once every five years.  Current owners of such rifles may never sell them to another New York State resident in the future.

Shockingly enough, in many ways the "assault weapons ban" is actually one of the statute's lesser infringements on the Second Amendment.  The statute criminalizes, potentially criminalizes, or places under state surveillance even the most innocuous, banal, and pedestrian forms of gun ownership, and it restricts the right of self-defense.

The new law prohibits the sale of any quantity of ammunition by anyone other than a licensed dealer and requires that such dealer perform a criminal background check on the purchaser and forward the purchaser's name, address, age, and occupation, and the quantity, caliber, and make of the ammunition, to a State Police database.  Thus, the ammunition database creates a de facto universal long gun registry.  A hunter who purchases a box of five 12-gauge deer slugs may think that his purchase is innocent enough; however, it will have the effect of informing the State Police that he owns a 12-gauge shotgun, enabling them to confiscate it in the future if they so choose.

The purchase of large quantities of ammunition will likely set off alarm bells at State Police headquarters.  But what is truly sinister about the ammunition registry is that no one actually knows "how much" will be deemed "too much" -- because the law does not prohibit the purchase or ownership of any specific quantity of ammunition.  Thus, one may become the target of a police investigation for engaging in a perfectly legal activity.  Since many gun owners have vowed to defy the "assault weapons" registration, it is highly likely that the State Police will use the ammunition database as a means to discover and confiscate unregistered rifles.

The ammunition registration is crucial to the law's confiscation scheme.  The law affirmatively requires that a person's firearms must be confiscated if any order of protection is filed against him -- no matter how bogus the complaint may be.  It also requires that a "mental health professional" (including a physician) who believes that an individual is a danger to himself or others must report his diagnosis to the police for purposes of firearm confiscation.  Such a diagnosis is highly subjective and could be easily politicized.  (For instance, in the 1964 presidential campaign, a group of psychiatrists "diagnosed" conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater as insane.)  But the law exempts such "professionals" from civil liability; thus, any "mental health professional" who believes that all gun owners are "nuts" could initiate the confiscation of a person's firearms, and the gun owner is forbidden to file a civil suit to challenge the "diagnosis."

The SAFE Act also severely infringes on the right of self-defense from criminal predation.  Although Article 35 of New York Penal law allows the use of deadly force in the event of a home invasion, the SAFE Act restricts the ammunition capacity of all centerfire guns to seven rounds.  If you possess a magazine loaded with more than seven rounds in your own home, you are guilty of a criminal offense.

So suppose a criminal with a stolen handgun and an illegal 15-round magazine invades your home.  If you shoot at him with more than eight rounds (seven plus one in the chamber), you will be criminally charged, and your magazine (and possibly your firearm) will be confiscated and destroyed without compensation, because you have now used it in the commission of a crime.  Beyond that, since a handgun permit in New York is not merely a permit to carry, but a permit to possess, after you have been charged with the crime of shooting at the home invader with a high-capacity magazine, your permit will be revoked, and all of your handguns will be confiscated.

The seven-round magazine limit effectively bans or severely restricts the use of perhaps 75% of the firearms designed in the past 100 years.  Seven-round magazines simply do not exist for common firearms such as the 13-shot Browning Hi-Power pistol, first manufactured in 1935, or the 10-shot Ruger 10/22 rifle, five million of which have been manufactured since the 1960s.  The M-1 "Garand" rifle, adopted by the U.S. Army in 1936, was designed exclusively to use an eight-round "clip," which will now be considered an illegal "high capacity ammunition feeding device."  Although the Act "grandfathers" existing ten-round magazines, it forbids owners to put more than seven rounds in them, and it requires lawful owners of magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds to sell them out of state, surrender them, or destroy them.  This is clearly an unconstitutional deprivation of private property, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

The law also prohibits the private "sale" or "exchange" of any firearm to any person unless a licensed dealer performs the "sale" and a background check.  The politically correct law exempts parents, spouses, children, stepchildren and "domestic partners."  Thus, the divorced Cuomo may legally give his live-in girlfriend Sandra Lee a firearm without a dealer transfer and background check, but if a serial rapist and murderer (such as the notorious "Bike Path Rapist" Altemio Sanchez , who terrorized women for three decades while the cops put the wrong guy in prison) is on the loose, you may not give a shotgun to your sister for self-protection.  You may give your live-in gay lover a firearm, but you may not give your brother or nephew a .22 rifle on Christmas Eve.  The law does not clarify how long someone must be in possession of a firearm before such possession is understood to be an "exchange"; thus, it is possible that lending a rifle to your brother-in-law for deer season without a dealer transfer and a background check could be construed as an illegal "exchange."  You would then be a criminal, and the gun used in the "crime" could be confiscated and destroyed.

Finally, the SAFE Act requires that gun owners report any "loss or theft" of a firearm or ammunition to the police within 24 hours.  Failure to do so is a criminal offense.  Read literally, a deer hunter in Saranac Lake who drops a single 12-gauge slug in the snow and cannot find it is a criminal unless he reports the loss to the police.

The New York SAFE Act is one of the most breathtakingly brazen assaults on the Constitution and on individual liberty in the history of the United States.  Cuomo has gleefully thumbed his nose at the Supreme Court's Heller and McDonald decisions in 2008 and 2010 affirming the right to keep and bear arms.  The intent of the law is to suppress and criminalize the common use of firearms, including guns not defined as "assault weapons."

The SAFE Act must be resisted on all levels.  I urge firearm manufacturers, like Remington and Kimber, to leave New York State as soon as possible and stop paying taxes to a government that seeks to suppress the right to own their products.  Firearms wholesalers and police supply outfits should boycott New York State law enforcement agencies.  Gun manufacturers should refuse sales and warranty service to police agencies in the state.  I strongly counsel residents of other states who value liberty to avoid New York at all costs.  Avoid tourist trips to New York City; the law has made a mockery of the Statue of "Liberty."  Residents of other states should avoid moving to New York under all but the most dire circumstances, and New York residents should begin making plans to leave as soon as possible.

New York has the highest taxes in the nation.  Twenty-five percent of the population is on Medicaid.  It has the highest rate of union membership in the nation.  It is ranked as the least "business-friendly" state in the country.  There is nothing to be gained in New York (unless you are on welfare).  Nothing.

Above all else, remember that even if you do not live in New York, you cannot be complacent.  The gun-banners are coming after you next.

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