On January 15 of this year, the State Legislature passed the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, commonly referred to as the NY SAFE Act. The law was developed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting and the intense nationwide debate over gun control that followed in the weeks and months following that tragic event. Governor Cuomo has referred to the SAFE Act as being the toughest piece of gun control legislation in the United States, and describes the law in these words:
"The SAFE Act stops criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun by requiring universal background checks on gun purchases, increases penalties for people who use illegal guns, mandates life in prison without parole for anyone who murders a first responder, and imposes the toughest assault weapons ban in the country. For hunters, sportsmen, and law abiding gun owners, this new law preserves and protects your right to buy, sell, keep or use your guns."
As could be expected on such a hot-button issue, the SAFE Act has been the subject of considerable controversy, with groups on both sides of the gun control debate arguing that the law is either a much needed bulwark against the spread of gun violence or a major violation of the Second Amendment's guarantee that the right to keep and bear arms "shall not be infringed."
What is in the SAFE Act?
As a resident of Westchester County, what does the NY SAFE Act mean to you? If you own guns, whether for self-defense, for hunting or sport shooting, it is very much in your best interests to take the time to understand the provisions of this new law so that you can avoid the possibility of an arrest and conviction. Rather than having to parse through the 22,192 word bill, fortunately, we can gain insight into the law's provisions from another source. The New York State Police has published the Guide to the New York Safe Act for Members of the Division of State Police, a 17-page field guide for the use of troopers who are now charged with the duty of enforcing the law. Some of the key provisions of the NY SAFE Act as described by the State Police field guide include:
- A mandate to create a statewide database for use in tracking the purchase and ownership of firearms and especially to prevent gun sales to individuals who do not meet the strict qualifications
- Expanded definition of the term "assault weapon," including weapons with features such as:
- Folding or telescoping stocks
- Flash suppressors
- Threaded barrels
- Thumbhole stocks
- Bayonet mounts
- Owners of assault weapons are required to register with the state, provided that they register by April 15, 2014 and may not transfer such firearms to others
- Anyone registering an assault weapon in order to comply with the registration requirement will be subjected to a state and federal background check, which may result in their right to own the gun being revoked based grounds such as alleged mental health disqualifications
- All private gun sale transactions must now include a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check.
- Pistol permits must now be renewed once every five years, beginning in January 2014
- The Mental Hygiene Law has been updated to require mental health professionals to make an immediate report to the authorities when a patient or other person under that professional's care is believed to be "likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others"
Failure to register an assault weapon under the SAFE Act is a class A misdemeanor, while possession of an assault weapon that was not owned before January 15, 2013, is a class D felony. Several other laws have been created or amended in accordance with the SAFE Act, including:
- Unlawful Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device / PL 265.36
- Unlawful Possession of Certain Ammunition Feeding Devices / PL 265.37
- Assault 2d / Injury to child by firearm / Penal Law 120.05 (4-a)
- Aggravated Murder / Murder 1st / Penal Law 125.26 (1) (a) (ii-a) / 125.27 (1) (a) (ii-a)
- Possession of a rifle, shotgun or firearm on school grounds or on a school bus without written authorization of the school. / Penal Law 265.01-a
- Criminal Possession of a Firearm / Penal Law 265.01-b
- Straw Purchases / Penal Law 265.17
- Drug Trafficking Felony / Penal Law 10.00 (21)
- Aggravated Criminal Possession of a Weapon / Penal Law 265.19
- Safe Storage of Rifles, Shotguns and Firearms / Penal Law 265.45
- Aggravated Enterprise Corruption / Penal Law 460.22
With even a casual inspection of the law, it is easy to believe Governor Cuomo's statement that the SAFE Act is the toughest gun control legislation in the nation.
Westchester Criminal Defense Lawyer for SAFE Act Cases
If you have been charged with an offense in relation to the NY SAFE Act, contact The Law Offices of Robert Schuster now. Whether you are accused of failing to register an assault weapon or if a provision of the SAFE Act is being applied to a case in which you are accused of the unlawful use of a firearm, Robert Schuster can help. As a former prosecutor with a 95% success rate at trial, he is prepared to fight for your rights and pursue a dismissal of the charges or a full acquittal. Contact the firm for an initial consultation and to learn more.