Laws that aren’t enforced are nothing more than words on a piece of paper. Proper enforcement of the law includes not just an arrest but also a prosecution. Remove either of those and you have a law that is essentially not enforced at all.
In New York, it looks like there are a couple of places that are refusing to enforce parts of the state’s SAFE Act, and for good reason.
Niagara County has joined Erie County in refusing to prosecute cases filed under the “seven-bullet” provision of New York’s SAFE Act.
Two federal courts have ruled the provision unconstitutional.
District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek said Thursday that her office will no longer prosecute any cases filed under the so-called “seven-bullet rule,” which bars possession of any ammunition-feeding device that holds seven or more rounds.
Wojtaszek said she is following the lead of Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr., who announced in November his refusal to prosecute such cases.
Flynn planned to drop 23 cases filed under that provision, the only part of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 that failed to pass muster with the courts when challenged by opponents as a violation of the Second Amendment.
The seven-bullet charge is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail.
In Buffalo, U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny struck down the provision in December 2013, while upholding the constitutionality of the rest of the SAFE Act.
The New York City-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in October 2015 affirmed Skretny’s decision.
Unfortunately, the state police are still arresting people on that provision. District attorneys who refuse to prosecute are helpful, as it means those arrested on these charges are merely inconvenienced, but it still should never happen.
Worse, though, are that police who make these arrests are operating in defiance of the courts, yet will face no potential punishment. This part of the law has been struck down. It’s not law anymore, which makes these arrests bogus. Maybe it’s time for the FBI to start picking up these officers for kidnapping? I suspect a few prosecutions on that would shape them up nicely.
Now, I’ll admit, when I first read the headlines, I was hoping that they weren’t going to prosecute anyone under the SAFE Act, but no such luck.
Still, it’s better than nothing, and seeing that police are still enforcing this provision is beyond ridiculous.
I’m thrilled that these two prosecutors understand their role in this and are making the right stand. Now, for them to decline to prosecute anyone under this draconian piece of legislation would be a beautiful and wondrous thing, but I’m not about to hold my breath. This is New York, after all, and while the rural counties are far more pro-gun than the NYC region, the state is still unlikely to think favorably of prosecutors who ignore a favorite bit of legislation from the anti-gun gatekeepers.
Such a pity, but that’s life.
We’ll take what we can get, and this is a good start. Now, the rest of the prosecutors need to follow these two’s lead.