Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Legal & Legislation

Mixed Trial Court Ruling on New York's "SAFE" Act Ensures Appellate Action Will Follow

Friday, January 17, 2014

On December 31, 2013, Judge William M. Skretny of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York issued a decision in a legal challenge to New York’s recently-enacted gun control law, commonly known as the SAFE Act.  The suit was brought by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, among others, with support from the NRA.  Plaintiffs asserted that three provisions of the Act violated the Second Amendment.  These included its expanded ban on so-called “assault weapons” and “large capacity ammunition feeding devices” and its requirement that magazines be loaded with no more than seven rounds, even if they have a larger capacity. Various aspects of the law were also challenged as being unconstitutionally vague.  Finally, plaintiffs asserted that provisions of the law which effectively ban direct Internet or mail order sales of ammunition violate Congress’ preeminent role under the Constitution in regulating interstate commerce.

The most important aspect of the decision from the perspective of New York’s beleaguered gun owners is that it invalidated the Act’s first-of-a-kind requirement that magazines used and intended for self-defense be loaded with no more than seven rounds of ammunition, no matter what their capacity.  Judge Skretny characterized the seven round limit as “arbitrary” and noted that because the law allowed for possession of magazines with up to 10 rounds, the limit could “disproportionately affect[] law-abiding citizens.”  He also found the state had not offered evidentiary support for its claims that the load limit would advance public safety.

With regard to the expansions of New York’s ban on “assault weapons” and “large” magazines, the court was considerably more deferential.  Judge Skretny determined these provisions of the law were subject to a three-step analysis: (1) determining whether the items were commonly-used for lawful purposes; (2) determining whether the challenged restrictions substantially burdened rights protected by the Second Amendment; and (3) determining what level of scrutiny to use by reference to how close the restriction burdened the “core” right of self-defense within the home. 

A significant positive to arise from the case was Judge Skretny’s findings that the banned firearms and magazines met the first two steps of the test.  Yet he refused to apply the highest level of constitutional scrutiny (i.e., strict scrutiny) in the third step, opting for what he called “intermediate scrutiny.”  This requires a court to determine whether the challenged restrictions are “substantially related to the achievement of an important governmental interest.”  In rendering this choice, Judge Skretny invoked First Amendment doctrine and compared the bans to content-neutral restrictions on speech that affect only the time, place, and manner of speech.  Yet the bans, outside of limited grandfather provisions that obviously contemplate diminution of stocks by attrition, do not merely state when, where, and how the items may be used.  Rather, they prohibit entirely the private, non-commercial possession of an entire class of what the court acknowledges are popular firearms owned by millions nationwide and commonly used by tens of thousands for lawful purposes.       

Nevertheless in finding that the bans satisfied intermediate scrutiny, Judge Skretny credited the state’s evidence on the public safety implications of the bans over that advanced by the plaintiffs.   His reasoning, in this regard, created a Catch-22 for law-abiding gun owners. “There … can be no serious dispute,” he wrote, “that the very features that increase a weapon’s utility for self-defense also increase its dangerousness to the public at large.”  In other words, the court seemed to indicate that the easier a firearm is to use, and the more effective it is in stopping an adversary (or multiple adversaries), the less protection it should be afforded under the Second Amendment. 

Yet the court also narrowed the scope of the bans by finding various provisions of the law so ambiguous as to violate the constitutional requirement that a criminal offense embody sufficient definiteness so that ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited and so that arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement is not encouraged.  These provisions included the law’s use of “muzzle breaks” as features that could qualify firearms as banned weapons, its inclusion of “semiautomatic version[s] of an automatic rifle, shotgun, or firearm” within its banned classes of pistols, and a clause expanding the magazine ban that Judge Skretny deemed “entirely indecipherable.”

Judge Skretny rejected the plaintiffs’ challenges to the new requirement that ammunition sales occur only in “face-to-face” transactions between the vendor and the seller, analogizing them to requirements that had been upheld in a prior case banning direct mail or Internet sales of cigarettes.

Parties on both sides of the case always expected that it would ultimately be resolved at the appellate level, and perhaps by the United States Supreme Court.  Both sides of the case have already filed notices of appeal, and the fight to vindicate the Second Amendment rights of New Yorkers will continue.

TRENDING NOW
Gun Grabbers Demand Unprecedented “Executive Actions”

News  

Monday, November 23, 2020

Gun Grabbers Demand Unprecedented “Executive Actions”

Biden was supposedly the point man for the gun control push Barack Obama launched during his second term. Obama has made a point of repeatedly emphasizing how lack of “progress” on gun control was the most frustrating and anger-inducing aspect ...

Delaware: Court Strikes Down Ban on Hunting with Semi-Autos

Friday, November 20, 2020

Delaware: Court Strikes Down Ban on Hunting with Semi-Autos

Today, the Delaware Superior Court issued its decision in the NRA-backed DSSA v. Garvin case, striking down the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) regulations that banned hunting deer with semi-automatic rifles.

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

News  

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Anti-gun Politicians Seek to Tax Your Second Amendment Rights Into Oblivion

In 1819, Chief Justice John Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court famously wrote:  “the power to tax involves the power to destroy ….”

BATFE Leadership Push Biden to Target Pistol Stabilizing Braces and Unfinished Receivers

News  

Monday, November 16, 2020

BATFE Leadership Push Biden to Target Pistol Stabilizing Braces and Unfinished Receivers

Just in case anyone needed further proof that much of the federal bureaucracy is more interested in serving themselves and left-wing political interests than public service, news broke this week that rogue elements of Bureau ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Want to Destroy the Second Amendment

News  

Monday, November 2, 2020

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Want to Destroy the Second Amendment

While discussion of the Second Amendment and gun control have been noticeably absent from the presidential debates and mainstream media coverage, gun rights are without a doubt on the ballot tomorrow.

A Government of Laws, Not of Men

News  

Monday, November 23, 2020

A Government of Laws, Not of Men

Justice Samuel Alito of the United States Supreme Court released a keynote address for a Federalist Society event. Speaking on “The Declination of Individual Liberty,” he discussed the alarming erosion of our fundamental constitutional rights – notably, ...

Gallup: Support for Gun Control has Dropped and It’s Not a Priority for Americans

News  

Monday, November 23, 2020

Gallup: Support for Gun Control has Dropped and It’s Not a Priority for Americans

After a year of COVID uncertainty, civil unrest, and record gun sales, support for further firearms restrictions has reached its lowest point since 2016. Moreover, the data shows that exceedingly few Americans consider additional gun controls the ...

Record Amount of Gun Control Legislation Introduced on First Day of Bill Pre-Filing for 2021 Texas Legislative Session

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Record Amount of Gun Control Legislation Introduced on First Day of Bill Pre-Filing for 2021 Texas Legislative Session

Although the 2021 session of the Texas Legislature convenes on January 12, gun control advocates financed by New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg and Beto "Hell Yeah, I'll Take Your Guns" O'Rourke wasted no time in announcing their ...

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

News  

Monday, September 21, 2020

Joe Biden Told Voters the Second Amendment DOES NOT Protect an Individual Right

During a September 2019 “townhall” hosted by New Hampshire ABC affiliate WMUR, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made clear that he does not believe the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms and ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

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.