The Arbalest Quarrel responds to an op-ed appearing in The New York Times on April 14, 2014. The link to the NY Times Article is here: www.nytimes.com/2014/04/14/opinion/grandfathered weapons.
Governor Cuomo signed the “SAFE Act” into law on January 15, 2015. The NY Times strongly suggests he did so in response to the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy. That’s true. But, it’s also true the Governor exploited a tragedy for political gain and to further the antigun agenda. The NY Times fails to mention that important fact.
The “SAFE Act” is restrictive. It includes a ban on many semiautomatic firearms. Any gun defined as an “assault weapon” under the “SAFE Act” is an illegal firearm in New York. The “SAFE Act” broadened the meaning of “assault weapon.” But, the words have no technical merit. Neither the Military nor the firearms industry recognizes or uses the expression. The expression “assault weapon” is a legal fiction, nothing more.
Do polls show “that most New Yorkers support the law,” as the NY Times says? That’s doubtful. The NY Times fails to cite any poll to support the finding in its op-ed. The NY Times also says: “those who already owned such weapons could keep them if they agreed to register the guns with the State Police by midnight Tuesday.” The NY Times adds: registration shouldn’t be a “big deal.” But, contrary to the NY Times assertion, the “SAFE Act” is a “big deal” to New York firearms’ owners. And registration is a “big deal” for several reasons.
First, why does the State require registration? New York firearms laws are inconsistent with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment speaks of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” And, the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2008 case, District of Columbia versus Heller, so held. In New York “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” is not a right at all. It’s a privilege. In New York the Second Amendment’s guarantee to American citizens is nonexistent. New York law trumps the United States Constitution. Strange!
Second, firearms license fees are costly. They may cost up to $340. At the moment, a firearms’ owner does not incur an extra fee to register an “assault weapon,” as the NY Times correctly says. But, who knows? Gun owners may incur a fee in the future. Nothing in the “SAFE Act” prohibits “grandfathered gun” fees.
Third, the NY Times says registering an “assault weapon” is “straightforward.” Perhaps. But, why should a New York gun owner have to register his “assault weapon” at all? To get a handgun license all New York gun owners must register those weapons. And, in New York City, firearms owners must register their rifles and shotguns as well. So, “assault weapon” registration often equals reregistration. Why must a gun owner register the same gun twice? Governor Cuomo doesn’t offer an explanation. And the NY Times doesn’t ask the question. Why not?
Fourth, the NY Times says, “those who already owned such weapons could keep them if they agreed to register the guns with State Police by midnight Tuesday.” This suggests a contract between the New York gun owner and the State. If so, what does the New York gun owner get in return for “executing this contract” with the State? The answer is, “nothing.” There’s no “meeting of the minds.” The “assault weapons” owner has to register the weapon or face its loss. It’s that simple. The New York gun owner is not agreeing to anything. He’s certainly not agreeing to something new in exchange for registration of his “assault weapon.” The New York gun owner did not have to register his “assault weapon” prior to enactment of the “SAFE Act.” So, why must he do so now? What has changed? Answer: nothing, really — only that the “SAFE Act” requires registration. Why? Who knows? Once again, the Governor doesn’t say; and the NY Times doesn’t ask. So, the New York gun owner has to do something he didn’t have to do before. He must register his weapon. Failure to do so is fatal. The NY Times says a gun owner will lose the “assault weapon” for failure to register it timely. What, then, has the New York gun owner gained through this “agreement?” Answer: “nothing.” And, if the gun owner does nothing, he loses something. What does the gun owner lose if he does nothing?” He loses his personal property: his “assault weapon.” May the New York gun owner lose more? Possibly. He may lose everything, namely every weapon he owns. How? Let’s look at the applicable laws.
Section 48, Subdivision 16-A(C) of the “SAFE Act” says: “A person who knowingly fails to apply to register such weapon as required by this Section, within one year of the effective date of the Chapter of the Laws of two thousand thirteen which added this Paragraph shall be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor and such person who unknowingly fails to validly register such weapon within such one year period shall be given a warning by an appropriate law enforcement authority about such failure and given thirty days in which to apply to register such weapon or to surrender it. A failure to apply or surrender such weapon within such thirty day period shall result in such weapon being removed by an appropriate law enforcement authority and declared a nuisance.”
The “SAFE Act” says a gun owner who knowingly fails to register an “assault weapon” timely is guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor and will lose that weapon. This suggests the gun owner will still keep his firearms licenses and other non-assault weapons he happens to own. That’s probably false. The firearm’s owner who knowingly fails to timely register his “assault weapon” stands to lose much more. Section 265.01-b of the Penal Code says, “a person is guilty of criminal possession of a firearm when he or she: (1) possesses any firearm or; (2) lawfully possesses a firearm prior to the effective date of the chapter of the laws of two thousand thirteen which added this section subject to the registration requirements of subdivision sixteen-a of section 400.00 of this chapter and knowingly fails to register such firearm pursuant to such subdivision. Criminal possession of a firearm is a class E felony.”
Subdivision 16-a of Section 400.00 of the New York Penal Code discusses the requirements for registration of firearms in New York. The New York gun owner must be mindful of Sections 265 et. seq. and 400 et. seq. of the Penal Code. The NY Times fails to mention them. The “SAFE Act” does not stand alone. The New York gun owner must be mindful of all State firearms’ laws. And he must be mindful, too, of all applicable County and municipal firearms codes and regulations.
Section 48, Subdivision 16-A(C) of the “SAFE Act” may refer to the same weapons the gun owner must register under Subdivision 16-a of Section 400.00 of the New York Penal Code. If so, then Subdivision 1(c) of Section 400.00 may kick in. Subdivision 1(c) of Section 400.00 of the New York Penal Code says “no license shall be issued or renewed pursuant to this section except by the licensing officer, and then only after investigation and finding that all statements in a proper application for a license are true.” The next line of Subdivision 1(c) of Section 400.00 of the New York Penal Code says, “no license shall be issued or renewed except for an applicant . . . (c) who has not been convicted anywhere of a felony or a serious offense.” Yes, a person who knowingly fails to register an “assault weapon” under Section 48, Subdivision 16-A(C) of the “SAFE Act” shall be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor. But, more importantly, he may also be guilty of a Class E felony under Subdivision 1(c) of Section 400.00 of the State Penal Code. Keep in mind: Section 48, Subdivision 16-A(C) of the “SAFE Act” and Subdivision 1(c) of Section 400.00 of the State Penal Code may or may not be coextensive. Even so, a Class A Misdemeanor is a “serious offense.” So, is it wise to take a chance? Clearly, if a gun owner violates Subdivision 1(c) of Section 400.00 of the Penal Code, he will lose his firearms licenses. And, once he loses his licenses, he will lose his firearms: all of them. And he may lose them forever. So, the “Arbalest Quarrel” advises the New York firearms’ owner to register his “assault weapons.” In a court of law civil disobedience is not a recognized defense to violation of NY SAFE. The charges for violating Section 48, Subdivision 16-A(C) of the “SAFE Act” and Subdivision 1(c) of Section 400.00 of the State Penal Code are serious. True Americans are on your side, but the State’s charges against you are personal ones. Likely, you’ll be fighting those charges alone. Consider time and expense to defend against them.
Anger and resentment over the “SAFE Act” among law-abiding firearms owners is understandable. The Act does nothing to prevent violent crime with firearms. Its thrust isn’t criminals. Its thrust is law-abiding gun owners. The “SAFE Act” not only invites civil disobedience, it revels in it. That’s what the Governor and the Act’s sponsors and proponents in the New York Legislature apparently want. Failure to comply with the “SAFE Act” gives the Governor both the excuse and impetus to revoke firearms licenses and confiscate guns en masse.
Unfortunately, the “SAFE Act,” isn’t the last New York antigun measure; it’s the forerunner to more antigun laws. The antigun zealots’ endgame is a total gun ban in the State. The antigun zealots won’t be content until private citizens’ are shorn of their guns — by force if necessary. To dismiss that idea out-of-hand is naïve.Copyright © 2014 Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) and Roger J Katz (Towne Criour) All Rights Reserved.