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Enforcement of SAFE Act provision in question
ALBANY -- A year after a tough new gun control law, questions over compliance. A provision of the SAFE Act will go in to effect next year for some people who own guns. But, this part of the law may be barely enforced.
One of the biggest stories of the year in New York made for some of the loudest and most visual displays at the Capitol and elsewhere. Strong opinions on the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act will likely carry over in to 2014. Shortly after the calendar turns a page, a change -- anyone with a military-style assault rifle on January 15th will legally have to register it by April 15th.
"Criminals don't register guns so I don't understand how they think this is going to make the state safer," said Tom King, NYS Pistol and Rifle Association.
Nevertheless, King believes some people will not register their guns. "There are other people saying from my cold dead hands they're going to have to take this," King said.
The organization believes there are between 1 and 2 million legally-purchased firearms of this kind in the state, and that some people will comply.
"We'll do it because we don't want to get in trouble, we don't want, if by chance we get caught with one, we don't want our guns taken away from us," King said. "A conviction on that, because it's a firearm conviction, would make you ineligible to own any firearms."
But, will law enforcement follow up? It will be a misdemeanor offense for anyone who does not register.
Many county sheriffs have taken stands against the safe act. Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino did say over the phone that enforcement of the SAFE Act will be difficult. He fears the county has neither the manpower nor the money enforcing this provision of the law, and his deputies time may be better spent enforcing other laws. Though he doesn't disagree with all of it, Dagostino equates the SAFE Act to something like an unfunded mandate, and questions how a law enforcement agency would find out who had a military-style assault rifle and who did not. He admits, however, that gun violence is an issue. The sheriff might have liked extra funding for programs the county has to address that, like gun buy-back initiatives, rather than provisions of the SAFE Act.
A federal judge in Western New York today upheld the SAFE Act, or at least most of it. Gun rights groups are vowing an appeal. Judge William Skretny says the ban on assault weapons does not violate Second Amendment rights -- he did however strike down the seven round limit in magazines, calling it arbitrary.