The criminalization of the Second Amendment continues in New York, where the state Senate on Thursday approved two pieces of legislation targeting homemade firearms that are legal to construct and possess under federal law.
Senate Bill 13, authored by Sen. Anna Kaplan, would make it a third-degree felony to possess an unfinished frame or receiver in the state. The bill advanced along mostly party lines, with one Republican crossing over to vote in favor of the legislation, while a Brooklyn Democrat joined in voting to oppose the measure.
Sen. Anthony Palumbo, a Long Island Republican, was one of the voices of opposition during debate over gun control bill, calling it a vague and open-ended piece of legislation that could criminalize the possession of a “hunk of metal” or a “barbecue tool.”
Kaplan disagreed, calling the language of her bill “very clear.” Let’s take a look and see.
“Unfinished frame or receiver” means a piece of any material that does not constitute the frame or receiver of a firearm, rifle or shotgun but that has been shaped or formed in any way for the purpose of becoming the frame or receiver of a firearm, rifle or shotgun, and which may readily be made into a functional frame or receiver through milling, drilling or other means. The term shall not include a piece of material that has had its size or external shape altered to facilitate transportation or storage or has had its chemical composition altered.
I agree with Palumbo here. Kaplan’s legalese would indeed allow a zealous prosecutor to charge someone with having a hunk of metal, so long as they believed that it’s been altered in any way as part of an attempt to build a homemade gun.
The sole Republican to vote in favor of the “hunk of metal ban” was freshman Sen. Mario Mattera, who said he “supports the Second Amendment, but…”
Mattera said his support of the bill, which is named for teacher Scott Beigel, who died in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, came after a pair of constituents reached out to him a couple of weeks ago.
The constituents? Linda Beigel Schulman and Michael Schulman— Beigel’s parents, who live in Dix Hills and are residents in Mattera’s State Senate district.
Mattera told The Point that the Schulmans talked to him about the bill, and he promised to look into it. Mattera said he supports the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, but believed unfinished receivers and frames — partially completed firearms that don’t include serial numbers and can’t be tracked, but can be formed into a working gun — are problematic. Matter said any firearm should have a serial number and be sold through proper channels.
In the end, he voted for Kaplan’s bill, and said he thought about Scott Beigel when he did.
“I couldn’t sleep at night thinking if that happens again and I didn’t vote for something … like this,” Mattera said. “We need to have a reasonable law to protect our residents. This is a law that’s going to, I feel, save another life.”
In other words, Mattera doesn’t believe that the Second Amendment extends to the right to build your own firearm, only to keep and bear those you bought from someone else. Imagine if your First Amendment rights of free speech only applied to quoting authors and not your own original thoughts, or if your Fourth Amendment rights only kicked in when you were in a house that you bought, and not one you built.
This bill is another attempt to ban our way to safety, and like every other supply-side gun control bill, it’s doomed to failure if enacted into law. Criminals are still going to illegally acquire firearms through theft, straw purchases, and the illicit market, as they’ve been doing since firearms were first invented.
It’s also worth noting that while Kaplan’s legislation was named for Scott Beigel, who was murdered in the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the gun that was used in the attack was legally purchased at retail, not built by the killer. Kaplan used the emotional impact of the horrific tragedy in Florida three years ago to try to gain support for her bill, and it appears she was successful, at least in the case of Mattera.
The other gun control bill approved by the state Senate on Thursday was the “Jose Webster Untraceable Firearms Act,” which would make it illegal to sell a home-built firearm. That practice is already illegal under federal law, unlike Kaplan’s proposal.
Both bills are likely to make it out of the state legislature, which now has an anti-gun majority in both chambers, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be quick to sign the measures into law. I expect that the ban on unfinished frames and receivers will quickly receive a court challenge, but it may ultimately be up to the Supreme Court to undo the damage done to the civil liberties of New Yorkers by the implementation of Kaplan’s ban on things that could possibly, maybe, be turned into a gun.
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