Judge upholds SAFE Act, rejects limit on number of rounds.
Federal Court Upholds NY Ban on Assault Weapons
By Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY New York's expanded ban on assault weapons is constitutional, but it cannot limit a magazine to seven bullets, a federal court judge ruled Tuesday.
The ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny in Buffalo found New York's gun-control law, called the SAFE Act, that restricts assault weapons doesn't infringe on Second Amendment rights. But the judge tossed a provision that limits a magazine that can hold 10 rounds to just seven bullets.
"This court finds that the challenged provisions of the SAFE Act — including the act's definition and regulation of assault weapons and its ban on large-capacity magazines — further the state's important interest in public safety, and do not impermissibly infringe on Plaintiffs' Second Amendment rights," Skretny ruled.
"But, the seven-round limit fails the relevant test because the purported link between the ban and the state's interest is tenuous, strained, and unsupported in the record," he continued.
The State Rifle & Pistol Association and other gun-rights groups filed court papers in March to challenge the SAFE-Act soon after it was passed in January by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who championed the law as a response to the Newtown school shootings a year ago.
The court ruling is likely to the first decision in a protracted legal battle over the law, which has been widely protested by gun-rights activists.
The lawsuit claimed that the law infringed on "fundamental constitutional rights to lawfully possess, keep, bear and use firearms for self-defense and other lawful purposes."
There was no immediate comment from Cuomo's office on the decision.
The law enacted tougher restrictions on gun sales, required added registration of gun possession and dropped the number of bullets allowed in a magazine from 10 to seven.
But New York changed the law a few months after it was passed because gun manufacturers do not make seven-round magazines. The law was modified to allow 10-round magazines, but only could be loaded with seven bullets -- unless it's for a sporting event or at a range.
STILL ANOTHER FIGHT
Despite's Tuesday's ruling from a federal judge, opponents of the SAFE Act have another legal avenue to pursue. Buffalo attorney Jim Tresmond will represent two plaintiffs in a separate case in the state's Supreme Court on Jan. 16, which will challenge other aspects of the law.
Tresmond said his case will challenge the gun registration requirements and certain restrictions on shotguns, distancing himself from the federal lawsuit that challenged under the Second Amendment.
"NYSRPA argued purely Second Amendment and failed to argue the requirement to register. That's where they made their blunder," Tresmond said. "And we're not gonna do the same thing."
Tresmond said Tuesday's federal ruling is what he "thought was going to happen," adding that he expects NYSRPA and adjoining plaintiffs to appeal the decision.
RULING A STEP FORWARD
"I think that the courts have said that there's a governmental interest and that it does not violate the second amendment," Reverend Pointer said. "In some way we've got to evolve."
Not everyone thinks what the SAFE Act stands for is getting in the way of our constitutional rights.
One advocate says that the federal court ruling marks an important shift - in the ongoing conversation of gun control.