New Yorkers ignore SAFE Act deadline: You shred the Constitution, we’ll shred registration forms

Photo Credit:  Harry Scull Jr. /Buffalo News
Photo Credit: Harry Scull Jr. /Buffalo News

Second Amendment and gun-rights activists loudly objected to New York’s legislative mandate that they register all “assault weapons” by Tuesday.

“Nobody is going to comply with this,” Tim Swedenhjelm told the Buffalo News of the looming SAFE Act provision deadline. “We don’t call them ‘assault rifles’ because they’re not ‘assault rifles.’ Assault rifles are automatic weapons. These are not automatic weapons. When I hear politicians call them assault rifles, you know they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard told the News that he would not require his deputies to enforce the requirement.

“I am not encouraging them to do it,” he said. “At the same time, their own consciences should be their guide.”

 The SAFE Act, passed by New York lawmakers in the days after the heinous massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, defined an assault weapon as a semiautomatic capable of accepting detachable magazines. To meet the specifications, the weapons also have to have one military-style feature, including a protruding pistol grip, folding stock, thumb-hole stock, a secondhand grip, bayonet mount or flash suppressor.

Supporters of the bill argue that it enhances the police’s ability to track stolen weapons used in a crime, compels background checks for private owner sales, and allows authorities to know who owns what.

“There’s a lot of hyperbole and misinformation floating around,” New Yorkers Against Gun Violence’s executive director, Leah Gunn Barrett, stated. “People who owned these weapons before Jan. 15, 2013, can keep them. All they need to do is register them. It is painless, easy and costs nothing.”

But gun-rights proponents scoffed at such reasoning.

“We believe the law is not just, it is not the government’s business,” said Lisa Donovan, spokeswoman for NY2A, or the New York 2nd Amendment Coalition. “Registration is confiscation.”

Plenty of others agree.

“They have been shredding the Constitution for years,” said tea party activist Rus Thompson, who led a rally of about 70 protesters in front of Buffalo’s Mahoney State Office Building.

With demonstrators busy shredding gun registration forms in front of news cameras, Thompson added, “You shred the Constitution, we’ll shred any form you want us to fill out. They can’t arrest a million people. What are they going to do?”

Republican State Assemblyman David Di-Pietro offered a sober assessment of the registration provision.

“From talking to gun dealers, gun-owners and gun advocates, it is estimated that there are more than 1 million assault-type guns in the state,” he said at a Monday rally in Springville, according to the Buffalo News. “We estimate that less than 10 percent of the owners of these guns will comply with the registration.

 “Most of the guns used in crimes are illegally obtained,” Di-Pietro added. “So anyone who tries to say that registration will lead to less crime and more identification of criminals is a blithering idiot.”

Like residents in Connecticut, New Jersey, California and elsewhere, New York’s gun owners will not let the issue go without a fight.

Richard Berkow GET AUTHOR RSS FEED

Former political news reporter Richard Berkow lost his idealism in the Kennedy years, and his innocence in Vietnam, Lebanon, and the Soviet Union. He hasn’t mellowed since, and can be harassed at [email protected]

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