Critics: SAFE Act is Cuomo's 'Obamacare website'

6:35 PM, Oct 29, 2013   |    comments
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By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief

Albany, NY -- Criticism of New York's gun-control law is persisting after State Police revealed a system of background checks for ammunition buyers won't be up and running by mid-January.

As part of the law passed last January, stores will be required to obtain details about anyone buying ammunition from a statewide database. Sellers will keep names, addresses, details of purchases and other personal information about ammunition purchases to be part of a statewide database.

But while ammo sellers will be required to register with the state and sales will have to take place face-to-face after Jan. 15 -- a full year after the law passed -- the database won't be up and running.

State Police denied there was any sort of delay. The law requires background checks on ammo sales beginning 30 days after the police superintendent declares the database operational, which hasn't happened yet.

The database system "is being developed," said Darcy Wells, a State Police spokeswoman.

"The State Police is working diligently to enact a system to meet the background check and record keeping requirements, as expeditiously as possible," Wells said in a statement Monday.

Critics of the law say it's another indication that the SAFE Act is flawed and was rushed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers in response to the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., last December. The bill was passed just hours after it was printed and requires added registration for gun owners, expands an assault-weapons ban and creates a statewide database of gun purchases.

Assemblyman Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford, Monroe County, said the latest SAFE Act set back is "Andrew Cuomo's Obamacare website," referring to the federal troubles with the health-care exchange website that launched Oct. 1.

"It's a disaster. Nobody has any idea what to do," Nojay said of the gun law.

Tom King, president of the state's Rifle & Pistol Association, said Cuomo pushed through the law without realizing that parts of it are unworkable.

The state Legislature and Cuomo earlier this year had to scrap plans to prohibit the possession of magazines that could hold more than seven bullets. The state changed the law so gun owners can have 10-bullet magazines, but can only load seven bullets. As of Jan. 15, gun owners need to get rid of any magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets.

King said that the ammunition database might have cost New York $50 million to $70 million to create, but there was no comment Monday from State Police on the cost of the database. The group is suing to overturn the SAFE Act.

The law "was pushed through," King said. "And they are trying to back out of it because they know it's a flawed piece of legislation. Right from the very get-go, they have been trying to amend it."

"It's interesting that today the State Police delayed the ammunition issue. We're still waiting for a message from State Police about who is charged with doing that five year recertification," says Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs.

Jacobs says the newest challenge for the SAFE Act shows why he thinks the law was passed too quickly.

"There's going to be problems, and now the problems are showing themselves more and more," says Jacobs.

Former Congressman Tom Reynolds, a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, says the SAFE Act, and its problems, has become a big issue politically.

"I believe some of this has come from opposition groups, and even an out of the state Republican committee, calling attention to the parallel, the difficulties that the Obama Administration is having with bringing Obamacare online," says Reynolds.

Reynolds thinks this could all impact the 2014 New York Governor's race.

"Everybody has a record that's an incumbent, so everything that the governor has done that is good for both the state and its communities, he'll want to tout, and others who maybe look at things that were detrimental to their view as citizens of New York will bring that up," says Reynolds.

"I think it's going to have zero impact on the race for Governor," says Buffalo State College professor Bruce Fisher.

Fisher, meanwhile, thinks bringing up the SAFE Act, and making it a campaign issue, would do more to hurt Cuomo's challenger than help.

"If the person says it's unconstitutional, he's going to hear a lot of laughing from lawyers. Fact is, hunters like me have lived with limits on our guns since we were little kids. Popularity, I don't think it's a popular issue frankly except in rural areas. Frankly, Democrats have never done well in rural areas. They've always done well in cities and suburbs," says Fisher.

Jacobs says last week, he met with other county clerks in Western New York to come up with a plan to ask the state for money to help with the overtime and staffing burdens their offices now face because of the SAFE Act. Jacobs told us he does not know how much money the counties will ask for.

Gannett Albany

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