America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 54

by

NEITHER
"SAFE"
NOR SORRY

C hris W. C ox
nra-ila
Executive Director

I L A

F E A T U R E

New York's
Gun Control Saga
Demonstrates
the Necessity of
Political Action.

I

n the closing hours of 2013,
Judge William M. Skretny of the
United States District Court for
the Western District of New York
issued a decision in a legal challenge to
New York's recently enacted gun control
law, misleadingly known as the "safe
Act." Several aspects of Judge Skretny's
decision represent victories for the Second Amendment. Yet the decision let stand
other offending aspects of the law, ensuring the fight will continue to vindicate the
rights of competent, peaceable New Yorkers to own and use some of America's most
common and popular arms. The story contains important lessons for gun owners in
every state.
While the safe Act infringes on the rights of New Yorkers in many ways, the plaintiffs
in the case, led by the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (nysrpa) and backed
by the National Rifle Association, launched a focused attack on the highest-priority
targets. Three provisions were challenged as violating the Second Amendment. These
included the Act's expanded bans on what it termed "assault weapons" and "large capacity
ammunition feeding devices," and its requirement that magazines contain no more than
seven rounds, whatever their capacity. Various aspects of the law were also challenged
as being so vague as to violate constitutional due process. Finally, the Act's ban on direct
Internet sales of ammunition was said to violate Congress' preeminent role under the
Constitution in regulating interstate commerce.
One of the most important aspects of Judge Skretny's decision for New York's gun
owners is it invalidated the act's bizarre requirement that magazines intended primarily
for self-defense be loaded with no more than seven rounds. Prior to passage of the
safe Act, New York State law already limited magazine capacity to 10 rounds, although
magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds manufactured before Sept. 13, 1994,
remained legally grandfathered. The safe Act originally changed this aspect of the law
in two ways. First, it eliminated the exemption for grandfathered 11+ round magazines.
Second, it limited the legal capacity of magazines to seven rounds.
The absurdity of the seven-round capacity limit for magazines-so few such
magazines exist that untold thousands of otherwise lawful firearms would have been
rendered useless-quickly forced the law's proponents into an embarrassing about-face.
The prior 10-round limit was reinstated in a subsequent bill, but any magazine with a
capacity that exceeded seven rounds could still only be loaded with seven rounds (with
certain sporting-but not defensive-exceptions).
In evaluating the load restriction, the court noted that it did not actually restrict
the supply of 10-round magazines and so could "disproportionately affect law-abiding

52

America's

1

st

Freedom

|

April 2014

citizens." It also
found that the state
had no explanation to justify
the legal limit of seven, which the court
characterized as "largely arbitrary."
Finally, it found the state had not offered
sufficient evidentiary support for claims
that the limit served the interests of
protecting bystanders of legal discharges
from stray rounds or limiting victims of
impromptu acts of violence.
Unfortunately, the court did not view
the safe Act's expanded "assault weapon"
and "large capacity" magazine bans with
equal skepticism. Judge Skretny analyzed
the expanded firearm and magazine bans
of the safe Act via a three-step process:
(1) determining whether the items were
commonly used for lawful purposes;
(2) determining whether the challenged
restrictions substantially burdened rights
protected by the Second Amendment;
and (3) determining what level of
scrutiny to use by referencing how closely
the restriction burdened the "core" right
of self-defense within the home.
Noting the ar-15 and its copies are
typical of the firearms restricted under



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of America's First Freedom - April 2014

America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 1
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 2
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 3
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 4
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