By: Craig Kline
In January of 2013, New York State passed the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (NY SAFE) Act into law. It includes a number of gun regulation provisions governing assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, lost or stolen guns, reporting requirements, and universal background checks, among other procedures. It also includes a “severability” clause, meaning that if certain elements of the law are found unenforceable or unconstitutional, they would be thrown out while the rest of the law stands in place.
The law was criticized as being rushed through the legislative process, and it shows in polling numbers. Sienna polling in 2015 showed that only 45 percent of Upstate New Yorkers supported the SAFE Act. However, that same polling showed that 62 percent of New Yorkers statewide support the legislation.
The NY SAFE Act includes a number of common-sense measures. The universal background check provision requires firearms sales be processed through a Federal Firearms Dealer. Transfers of firearms are exempted, but even there, family members can not knowingly give a weapon to a family member they know is not allowed to legally poses it. Handguns need to be re-registered every five years, and owners are able to have their permits exempted from freedom of information act requests.
Straw purchases were made Class D felonies under NY SAFE Act, upgraded from misdemeanors. The act includes provisions for those who are deemed, by mental health professionals, to be a threat to themselves and others to have firearms taken from them until further notice. County officials must agree with the assessment of the professionals and have their names placed on a state database before any seizure of firearms is conducted.
On the federal level, the assault weapons ban has been proven to reduce the number of mass casualties in gun incidents. NY’s gun laws have proven to make the state a national leader in low levels of firearm incidents. The SAFE Act is used to describe New York’s gun laws as a whole, but there were existing regulations in place before 2013. The state had an assault weapons ban in place and NYC had its own firearms regulation.
Federalizing NY SAFE Act would bring a number of sensible gun reforms to states that have very lax gun laws. Many who talk about gun violence comment on the gun violence in Chicago. They rarely bring up the gun laws in nearby Indiana. Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Ohio, and a number of other states are the suppliers for an illegal weapons trade. A uniform federal standard that includes background checks, assault weapons prohibitions, and magazine limitations is what our citizens want. These are common-sense reforms that will not just make our schools safer – they will increase safety in our movie theaters, our shopping malls, our churches, and all the other venues where these acts of senseless mass shootings continue to devastate America.