Empire state politicians gauge gun registration deadlines come and gone and enforcement of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s landmark gun control law they say is unconstitutional and may cost him re-election.
“New Yorkers are blind to how many people registered their ‘assault weapons’ by the April 15 deadline,” said William R. “Bill” Nojay (R.-Pittsford) state assemblyman representing parts of Monroe and Steuben County and all of Livingston County in Western, New York.
The state police are refusing to issue any registration numbers citing confidentiality provisions in the SAFE Act, however those provisions were meant to protect the people not shield the state government from withholding information, he said.
“We understood that the aggregate data of people who registered would be released,” he said. “It’s the governor’s position that even the aggregate number is protected by statute and he won’t release them.”
The number that seems to have resonated with other politicians and industry commentators is less than 10% registration rates, but he said that those numbers are not reliable. “If someone gave me a different number I would not challenge them on it because the bottom line is we don’t know.”
There is no way to know how many guns are in circulation, said Nojay. “If we don’t know the numerator we don’t know the denominator.”
State Sen. Lee M. Zeldin (R.-Shirley) who represents parts of Suffolk County, in Eastern Long Island said the only registration numbers available are anecdotal. “The people who have been speaking-out the most with regard to registration are saying they are refusing to comply.”
Nojay said county sheriffs and rank-and-file state troopers have related to him that they will not take affirmative action to enforce the SAFE Act except when it is an add-on or pile-on charge to a crime in commission.
“But that can change on a dime by order of the governor to the troopers,” he continued. “We do not think that will happen until 2014 – Cuomo needs to get through this election cycle.”
New York State Rifle & Pistol Association members are concerned that an anonymous-tip could bring about a police investigation for an unlawful firearm and are therefore being tight-lipped about compliance, said Thomas H. King president of NYSR&PA, the largest National Rifle Association state association in the nation with over 41,000 members.
Enforcement of the SAFE Act will be a big problem in the upcoming weeks and months, he said.
“Will a police officer or some other officer come knocking on our doors saying they understand we have an assault weapon that has been reported to them?” he asked. “Gun owners are not sure what to do other than not opening their doors unless the officer has a search warrant.”
Cuomo is a potential Democrat contender for President 2016 and recent poll numbers indicate falling popularity numbers. A March Sienna poll shows that a plurality of voters at the rate of 47-43 percent say a Republican can beat Cuomo in November.
“The bad news for Cuomo is that his job performance rating is the lowest it has been since November,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. The poll results indicate that Cuomo’s job performance ratings fell three points in one month from 48-51 percent to 46-54 percent.
The lawsuit pending against the state that is the most hopeful to overturn the SAFE Act is NYSR&PA’s action, in which Nojay is the only state legislator who joining as a named plaintiff, said Nojay, a Columbia law school graduate. “The only team of attorneys that I think has handled it in a way that it is likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court is the NYSR&PA lawsuit.”
After the split-decision in the Western District court in Buffalo, King said both sides appealed to the second circuit court of appeals. “Right now we are waiting briefing by both sides before it moves forward with the full court in New York City at the second circuit.”
The U.S. District court in the Western District of New York made an important first step in ruling that the seven-magazine capacity limit is unconstitutional, said Zeldin who is a candidate for U.S. Congress, Distr. 1 this November.
“Hopefully the U.S. Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court will go further in ruling the other parts of the SAFE Act unconstitutional as well.”
He said important precedent has been determined in the Heller case that protects firearms that are commonly used from being banned and has direct parallels to the NYSR&PA lawsuit. “The District of Columbia hand gun ban was overturned because it was banning an entire classification of firearms that are commonly used by law abiding citizens.”
Firearms determined to be “assault weapons” are similarly commonly used by law abiding citizens in New York State, he said.
Opponents to the SAFE Act are passionately in favor of seeing the law overturned either legislatively or through the courts, said Zeldin, who is an U.S. Army veteran and former JAG attorney.
“Reaction that we will see from politicians after a large incident, who want to capitalize on people’s emotions for political gain, is to pass some type of gun control measure that is not properly vetted because the fact of the matter is: proper vetting would most likely lead to changes being made or legislation not being passed at all.”
When gun control laws go too far, law abiding citizens are turned into criminals, said the Albany law school graduate. “It’s unfortunate, it’s unconstitutional and it’s reprehensible.”