By Leah Gunn Barrett
The NY SAFE Act, the gun safety law passed in the aftermath of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., was supported by a bipartisan State Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Jan. 15, 2013, and is supported by a wide majority of New Yorkers. The law respects the right to bear arms and the interest of legal owners who use their guns appropriately.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia affirmed in the 2008 Heller decision that the Second Amendment allows reasonable regulation of dangerous and unusual weapons. The muskets of the 18th century and other single-shot weapons have little in common with the military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines today. U.S. District Judge William Skretny of Buffalo agreed in his Dec. 31 ruling, noting the SAFE Act’s regulation of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines is constitutional and protects public safety.
The stronger ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines will keep weapons like the Bushmaster assault rifle used in Newtown out of New York communities. Adam Lanza used four 30-round magazines to kill 20 children and six educators. If he had been limited to 10-round magazines, he would not have been able to kill so many people so quickly.
The SAFE Act protects public safety by requiring criminal background checks on all gun and ammunition sales, keeping guns out of the wrong hands. From 1994 to 2009, the federal background check system has kept nearly 2 million criminals and other dangerous people from buying guns. Responsible gun owners are not against keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
The SAFE Act protects public safety by requiring pistol licenses and assault rifle registrations to be recertified every five years, just as New Yorkers must renew their driver’s licenses.
Law enforcement can determine if the licensee has engaged in any activity that would prohibit the individual from continuing to possess a firearm. At the 2009 Binghamton mass shooting, the shooter had a lifetime firearms permit, so law enforcement did not learn of violent behavior that would have disqualified him from having the permit.
Strong gun laws enhance public safety. New York has the fourth-lowest gun death rate in the nation, despite hosting 80 million visitors per year.
But strong federal gun laws are needed to further protect New Yorkers. In 2012, 68 percent of traced crime guns in New York State originated from states with weak gun laws.
Universal background checks and making gun trafficking a felony would help reduce the flow of illegal guns into New York and would protect our citizens from the scourge of gun violence. That’s something all New Yorkers should support.
Leah Gunn Barrett is executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.