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New York Gun Owners Defy SAFE Act

New York Gun Owners Defy SAFE Act

New York gun owners—who strongly opposed passage of the anti-gun SAFE Act back in 2013—have now cast their votes against the semi-auto firearm registration portion of the law, this time by simply ignoring the requirement.

Recently released New York state police data indicate that out of an estimated 1 million semi-automatic firearms required to be registered under the law, 23,847 people have registered only 44,485 of the guns—about a 4 percent compliance rate.

Under the SAFE Act, noncompliance with the registration of one’s guns could result in either a misdemeanor or felony charge, with the possibility of one to four years in prison—so Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act has turned hundreds of thousands of gun owners into criminals.

Yet gun owners—familiar with the fact that registration has so often led to confiscation, even in their own state—apparently would rather be considered criminals than to comply with the punitive registration requirements.Yet gun owners—familiar with the fact that registration has so often led to confiscation, even in their own state—apparently would rather be considered criminals than to comply with the punitive registration requirements.

Interestingly, Gov. Cuomo had attempted to keep the extremely low registration numbers, which prove widespread noncompliance, a secret from the public. Only a lawsuit by New York State Rifle and Pistol Association forced the release. On April 30, New York Acting Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. McNamara determined that the state police had improperly withheld the information from the public, and ordered them to turn over the registration data.

As NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action pointed out in a recent alert, gun owners’ concerns over confiscation are well founded, and many New Yorkers are likely familiar with the repeated confiscations carried out by New York City officials. In 1967, New York City enacted a law requiring the registration of rifles and shotguns. Subsequently, in 1991 the city banned many semi-automatic firearms. As New York City already possessed a registry of firearms and their owners, the city notified the owners that their newly illegal firearms must be removed from the five boroughs (not a realistic option for many people of lesser means), permanently disabled or relinquished to the authorities. 

This shameful scenario played out again in 2013, when the NYPD sent out another round of letters to New York City gun owners, once again demanding the removal, destruction or surrender of legally registered firearms made illegal by a subsequent law.

Also, as ILA points out, the recent experience in New York is only the latest instance illustrating the futility of these types of laws. In Connecticut, a 2013 law required residents to register certain types of semi-automatic firearms and individual magazines with a capacity greater than 10 by Jan. 1, 2014. Out of an estimated several hundred thousand guns and 2.4 million magazines that were required to be registered, Connecticut gun owners had registered only 50,016 firearms and a mere 38,290 magazines by the deadline.

Widespread noncompliance in both states proves one thing—many gun owners are aware that firearm registration always leads to confiscation. Interestingly, registration continues to be the Holy Grail of gun-banners, even if they have to disguise it as something more palatable. That fact is easily seen by the numerous state and federal “universal” background proposals, which nearly always contain some kind of registration component.