Press-Republican

January 30, 2013

Gun owners question new state law

KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

LAKE PLACID — The new state gun-control law met with a myriad of questions here Tuesday.

An information session presented by State Police officials on the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NYSAFE) was well-attended.

Local sportsmen and gun owners inquired about gun ownership and their Second Amendment rights in conjunction with the new law.

LAW PROVISIONS

The Firearms Enforcement Act made it illegal to purchase assault weapons in New York.

And gun owners who have an assault weapon bought before Jan. 15 — even those used for hunting — are required to register them by April 15, 2014. The registration period opens on April 15 of this year.

The new law will phase in numerous other actions, including mandatory background checks for gun and ammunition purchases.

Starting April 15, only magazines that contain seven rounds or fewer will be sold in New York state.

Gun owners can permanently modify their existing ammunition magazines so they hold no more than 10 rounds, State Police Col. Tom Fazio explained in a presentation, going through specific changes in gun-ownership law. But they can load only seven rounds starting on April 15.

Background checks for ammunition sales will go into effect on Jan. 15, 2014.

If assault weapons are not registered and are found on a person or at their residence after April 15 of next year, police will issue a warning and give the gun owner 30 days to register it.

After that, it would be a misdemeanor criminal offense, and the gun could be taken away.

MILITARY-STYLE GUNS

The definition of “assault weapon” applies to very specific guns.

“Most guns that are used for hunting are not assault weapons and are not affected by this law,” Fazio said.

“Typical shotguns and hunting rifles are exempt, as the law specifies military-style assault weapons by design characteristics.”

Steve Buzzell of Saranac Lake asked if any assault weapons can be sold now in New York.

“You can’t transfer assault weapons in New York,” Fazio said. 

‘INSULTING’

Nathan Mattoon from Tupper Lake said he paid $100 for a complete mental-health and criminal-background check last fall to get a permit to carry a handgun in New York.

“The Glock 19 is now rendered useless,” he said. “I find the hypocrisy of the SAFE Act to be insulting.”

State Police attorney Kevin Bruen said their job has always been to reinforce laws as written. 

“We are not here trying to make people criminals who aren’t,” Bruen said.

QUESTION OF RIGHTS

It became clear through several hours of calm discourse that most questions from gun owners focused on Second Amendment boundaries and the right to bear arms.

Geoff Hewston from Jay likened the new rules to Prohibition-era laws.

“The people who will register their assault weapons are those who obey the law,” he said.

“There will just be a black market for them.”

For 20 years, Hewston was a federal firearms licensing agent, and he watched gun sales as the new law went into effect.

Already, prices for ammunition have doubled in some cases, he said.

“By rushing this thing through, they (lawmakers) missed a lot of details. The gun culture of the U.S. is what settled the United States, and we won’t give it up.

“The Second Amendment has nothing to do with hunting. It has to do with gun ownership and self defense.”

In the back of the room, one man commented without giving his name: “Was there a provision in the law that criminals would only load seven rounds in their Glocks?”

That drew rousing applause.

30-ROUND MAGAZINES

Nathan’s father, Barry Mattoon, also from Tupper Lake, asked when 30-round magazines will be banned.

By Jan. 15 next year, gun owners will have to discard, sell or permanently modify magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, Fazio said.

“If someone refuses to turn in a 30-round magazine, will it be confiscated?” Barry asked.

“No, unless the police have probable cause and a warrant,” Bruen, a Warren County attorney, answered.

Fazio did tell reporters that he thought tighter regulation of ammunition and assault weapons would help “keep them out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

STORING GUNS

Other components of the law require safe storage, meaning owners will have to lock their guns if they live with someone who has been convicted of a felony or domestic-violence crime or if they live with someone who has been involuntarily committed to a mental-health program.

“The idea is not to go in and get people’s weapons,” Bruen said.

Assault weapon registration, pistol permits and earlier background checks do not negate the need for background checks whenever gun owners buy ammunition.

Email Kim Smith: kdedam@pressrepublican.com

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