America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 56

I L A

F E A T U R E

the safe Act, Judge Skretny concluded that such firearms are indeed "popular" and
increasingly so in the last decade. He further found "there can be little dispute that
tens of thousands of Americans own these guns and use them exclusively for lawful
purposes such as hunting, target shooting and even self-defense." Thus, he was willing
to assume "for purposes of this Decision ... that the weapons at issue are commonly
used for lawful purposes." He also found that the safe Act's restrictions "impose a
substantial burden on Plaintiff's Second Amendment rights." Judge Skretny made
similar findings about "large-capacity" magazines, finding that they satisfied the first
two prongs of his test.
Nevertheless, in applying the third prong of the analysis, the court did not apply the
strongest level of judicial scrutiny (i.e., "strict scrutiny"), instead opting for what Judge
Skretny called "intermediate scrutiny." According to the court, this requires a decision
as to whether the challenged restrictions are "substantially related to the achievement of
an important governmental interest." Judge Skretny invoked First Amendment doctrine
in making this choice and compared the bans to content-neutral restrictions on speech
that affect only the time, place and manner of speech. Even as it acknowledged the
"substantial burdens of the law," the court found "ample alternative channels" existed to
exercise Second Amendment rights.
This was hardly a fair comparison. The bans-outside of limited grandfather
provisions that will reduce the supply of lawfully owned arms by attrition-do not
merely state when, where and how the items may be used. Rather, they prohibit
entirely the private, non-commercial possession of an entire class of firearms the court
acknowledged are owned by millions nationwide and commonly used for lawful
purposes. Thus, a better First Amendment analogy to the way the law actually works
would be if the state tried to ban one series of books by pointing out readers could still
choose from many other books.
Ironically, the court credited the state's assertion that the restrictions serve an
important governmental interest by reasoning "[t]here ... can be no serious dispute
that the very features that increase a weapon's utility for self-defense also increase its
dangerousness to the public at large." It therefore seemed to a large degree to imply
that the easier a firearm is to use, and the more effective it is in stopping an adversary
(or multiple adversaries), the less protection it should be afforded under the Second
Amendment. The court also credited evidence the state presented that supposedly
showed its regulations were likely to reduce the use of the banned weapons in crime.
Judge Skretny made similar adverse findings with respect to the banned magazines.
In both instances, the court acknowledged that the fit between New York's purported
public safety goals and the challenged restrictions is "not perfect" and that the plaintiffs
presented conflicting evidence to rebut the legislature's findings. Nevertheless, the
decision repeated a line from a prior case that showed deference to the state: "[i]n the
context of firearm regulation, the legislature is 'far better equipped than the judiciary' to
make sensitive public policy judgments ... concerning the dangers in carrying firearms
and the manner to combat those risks."
Another aspect of plaintiffs' suit faulted the law's description of certain banned
features or other important terms as unconstitutionally vague. In other words,
they claimed the law lacked sufficient clarity to notify ordinary people of what is
prohibited and therefore could encourage arbitrary enforcement. In several instances,
the court agreed.
One such clause followed a general ban on the possession of a "large capacity"
magazines manufactured before Sept. 13, 1994, and stated:
... and if such person lawfully possessed such large capacity feeding device before the
effective date of the chapter of the laws of two thousand thirteen which added this section,
that has a capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than ten
rounds of ammunition.
The court found the "and if" clause "unintelligible" and "entirely indecipherable,"
and therefore unenforceable.
A similar fate befell the law's description of a "muzzle break" as a feature that could
54

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April 2014

turn a firearm into a banned "assault
weapon." The state claimed that the
intended term was "muzzle brake." The
court observed that the state offered no
evidence for this assertion, that the term
actually used is "meaningless," and that it
would have to be stricken from the law.
The court also agreed that the
state could not enforce its ban on
semi-automatic pistols that have an
ability to accept a detachable magazine
and are "semiautomatic version[s] of
an automatic rifle, shotgun, or firearm."
According to Judge Skretny, "The
statute provides no criteria to inform
this determination, and, aside from the
largely irrelevant citations to case law,
New York fails to point to any evidence
whatsoever that would lend meaning
to this term."
Finally, Judge Skretny rejected
the plaintiffs' challenges to the new
requirement that ammunition sales
occur only in "face-to-face" transactions
between the vendor and the seller,
analogizing them to requirements that
had been upheld in a prior case banning
sellers from delivering cigarettes directly
to customers.
Judge Skretny's decision is not a total
victory for either side. Nevertheless, it
leaves New York firearm owners better
off than they otherwise would have
been by reinstating their right to load
legal magazines to capacity for defensive
purposes and by narrowing the scope
of the expanded "assault weapons" and
magazine bans through the striking of
incomprehensible terminology. Both
parties are appealing the decision, and
some legal observers believe the case
may ultimately be resolved by the United
States Supreme Court.
Rest assured, your nra will continue
to use every legal means to vindicate
fully the Second Amendment rights
of New Yorkers and others subject to
oppressive and overreaching gun control.
Judge Skretny's decision demonstrates,
however, that the courts are no sure
remedy for even the most draconian
gun control laws. The best place to
fight these battles is at the ballot box, a
lesson every gun owner should keep in
mind as November's critical midterm
elections approach.



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
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 5
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 6
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 7
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 8
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 9
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 10
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 11
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 12
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 13
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 14
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 15
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 16
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 17
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 18
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 19
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 20
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 21
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 22
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 23
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 24
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 25
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 26
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 27
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 28
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 29
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 30
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 31
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 32
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 33
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 34
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 35
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 36
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 37
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 38
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 39
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 40
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 41
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 42
America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 43
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America's First Freedom - April 2014 - 49
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