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New York's Backroom Deal Previews Congressional Debate

Saturday, April 6, 2013

We are in the legislative battle of our lifetimes. The avalanche of anti-Second Amendment legislation on Capitol Hill started on the very first day of this congressional session, and by the time you read this column, the u.s. Senate may already have acted on some of these bills. 

I can’t predict exactly how that debate will unfold, but the New York legislature just passed a preview of our adversaries’ true agenda. State lawmakers cowered when Governor Andrew Cuomo bullied and threatened them into enacting a massive anti-gun bill in a single day. The new law was called a “common sense measure” by anti-gun agitator and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. He also said it was “an example of bipartisan cooperation” for Congress to follow, so let’s see exactly what he wants to do to your rights.

The centerpiece of the law is a sweeping ban on semi-automatics, encompassing rifles, shotguns and pistols, with an expansive new definition that will ban thousands of common guns. In sum, all semi-auto rifles and pistols that can accept a detachable magazine and have a single prohibited feature are banned. Semi-auto shotguns with a single prohibited feature are banned. After a grace period, prohibited guns can’t be sold in the state except to dealers, and current owners must register them with the state police. The registration must be “recertified” every five years. Any banned gun that is not registered by the deadline is subject to confiscation, and banned guns cannot be inherited. 

The new law also bans magazines that can hold more than seven rounds. Currently possessed magazines that can hold 10 rounds are grandfathered, but can’t be loaded with more than seven rounds (yes, really). Magazines holding more than 10 rounds must be discarded, permanently modified, sold to a dealer or sold out of state. And here’s the real kicker—even among legal experts, there’s confusion about whether law enforcement officers are exempt.

The law also mandates so-called “universal background checks” for the sale of firearms. Of course, “universal” checks will never be universal, because criminals won’t play along—so let’s call this what it really is: an attempt to criminalize private firearm transfers. In any event, for law-abiding New Yorkers, the new law means that all firearm transfers, not just those made at gun shows, have to be run through a licensed dealer, complete with a Form 4473 and a nics check. Only “immediate” family members are exempt, and this is defined so narrowly that siblings may not transfer guns to one another without a check, nor may a son or daughter give or sell a firearm to a parent.

Background checks are also now mandated for ammunition sales. A special license will be required for sellers, and they will have to conduct a state-level background check of a buyer before ammunition can be sold. All sales will be registered with the state police and the online sale of ammunition for direct delivery will be banned. 

There’s more—much more—but you get the idea. Meanwhile, what does the law do about school safety? Not only does it not require armed security, but a literal reading of the law would prohibit an armed police officer from entering a school without prior written permission from the school. That’s going to be a big help!

In the aftermath of the law’s passage, the clearest voice of reason to emerge is the New York State Sheriffs’ Association. After analyzing the law, the group sent the governor a letter saying “the new definition of assault weapons is too broad” and that “the reduction of magazine capacity will not make New Yorkers or our communities safer.” The group joins other sheriffs all across the country who are making public statements opposing new anti-gun legislation, many of them suggesting they will refuse to enforce laws that abridge the constitutional rights of their citizens. (See ila Report, p. 56.)

There’s a reason the governor jammed this law down the throats of state legislators in a hurry. Informed debate and public scrutiny are the enemies of those who want to enact senseless restrictions upon our freedoms.

If you want to protect your freedoms against a train wreck of federal restrictions like those just enacted in New York, now is the time to make your voice heard by sending a message to your senators. Visit www.nraila.org and click the “Write Your Reps” feature for contact info, or call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Tell them that destroying the Second Amendment is not the answer to preventing future tragedies. 

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.