A federal appeals court decision is pending in a lawsuit to overturn parts of a controversial New York state gun-control law.
A decision is expected no earlier than February in suit brought by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, with National Rifle Association aid, to block facets of the so-called SAFE Act, according to Tom King, NYSRPA president. The court recently finished hearing oral arguments.
The act, which has drawn several well-attended public protests, was enacted Jan. 15, 2013, overnight in reaction to the Dec. 14, 2013, school massacre in Sandy Hook, Conn., in which a .223 cal. semiautomatic rifle was used.
The case went to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals after U.S. District Court Chief Justice William M. Skretny in Buffalo left intact most of the law but struck down two minor facets for their ambiguity and one very contentious piece banning more than seven rounds in ammunition feeding devices. The judge called the seven-round limit â€œa largely arbitrary numberâ€ that will not deter criminals but will penalize law-abiding citizens because 10-round devices are legal.
King said the lawsuit â€œwill most likely go to the [U.S.] Supreme Court.â€ The suit is one of seven attacking the law on various grounds.
The judge left standing banned features of a semiautomatic rifle, such as a â€œconspicuously protruding pistol grip,â€ telescoping or folding stock, and thumbhole stock. He stated that if, as the plaintiffs argue, these increase â€œcomfort, stability, and accuracy,â€ the stateâ€™s interest in reducing a murderous shooterâ€™s killing outweighs the law-abiding citizenâ€™s right to these features.
The judge also opined that banning internet ammunition sales would not adversely affect interstate commerce, comparing it to the stateâ€™s prohibition of internet cigarette sales.
The SAFE Act has numerous other features that are in legal contention, such as forbidding ammunition feeding devices holding more than 10 rounds. During the 1999 Columbine school massacre, one of the shooters had a rifle compliant with the now-expired Federal Assault Weapons Ban and used detachable 10-round magazines to fire 96 times before killing himself.
Similarly, the NYSRPA is also fighting the prohibition of semiautomatic shotguns that can use magazines holding more than seven rounds.
FBI data for 2011 showed that 323 murders were committed using rifles of any kind, whereas 496 murders were committed with hammers and clubs, and 1,694 with knives. The U.S. Department of Justice has said the so-called assault weapons under the FAWB were involved in only 2 percent of gun crimes.
What remains to be seen is how the state will implement its requirement that background checks on ammunition sales. The state reportedly is still working on the technology for a database, and no further information has been made available.
Back in October of 2013, State Police spokeswoman Darcy Wells told The Buffalo News, â€œThe State Police is working on technology solutions to be able to carry outÂ this section of the SAFE Act so that the public, buyers and sellers are notÂ inconvenienced or delayed in any way when they purchase ammunition.â€
King said he is concerned the ammunition checks might become â€œbackdoor registration of firearms.
â€œThe concern is registration whenever or wherever it has occurred has led to one thingâ€”confiscation.â€
Right now it is unclear what the ammunition background checks will look like, he said, but it could become â€œthe most serious issue.â€