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Rod Watson: New York’s SNAFU Act hits legal gun owners – again

Dear Criminal:

I’m sure that right about now you’re slapping yourself upside the head and thinking, "Oh my God, I forgot to recertify my pistol permit and list my handguns with New York State."

You can relax.

The State Police assure us they are not hunting down those who forgot to comply by last week’s deadline, a failure that – if strictly enforced – could result in you losing not only your handguns, but other tools of your trade such as rifles and shotguns.

The upshot is that you still have plenty of time to lead a gun-law abiding life even though the Jan. 31 deadline specified in New York’s SAFE Act is long gone. Authorities won’t go after gun owners who "unknowingly" fail to recertify because the goal is compliance.

As someone being counted on to demonstrate your deep respect for the law – which is why gun laws are so effective – I’m sure you’ll appreciate the irony here. Our pre-eminent law enforcement agency is taking a common-sense approach to this aspect of the SAFE Act by, in effect, ignoring the law. Or at least its deadline.

But it makes sense. As the deadline approached, they had received only 204,080 recertifications out of 372,388 notifications sent out. Erie County alone estimated that more than 50,000 permit holders here had yet to comply. It brings to mind Prohibition, which is fitting because Albany’s finest must have been drunk when they passed this under a gubernatorial "message of (political) necessity" with no hearings, testimony or even much time to read it.

Drafted with such Madisonesque precision, the statute already had its seven-round magazine provision effectively neutered once it became clear that manufacturers don’t make such magazines.

I’m sure that decision came just in the nick of time, stopping you and your fellow criminals from tossing all of your 10-round magazines in the recycling bin.

Of course, this recertification reprieve assumes you had a pistol permit in the first place. If not, this timely reminder undoubtedly will prompt you to partake of the hassle New York imposes on law-abiding gun owners, who can wait a year or more to get a permit to target shoot, hunt or protect themselves.

During that time, you’ll have to get a job to tide you over until your permit comes through. Then you can go back to your chosen profession, secure in the knowledge that as you commit armed robbery and other mayhem, you will have complied with all applicable gun laws.

The SAFE Act is just one more of those hundreds or thousands already on the books, depending on who’s counting. Obviously, some of them are useful, as when police stop a car for some other reason and find an illegal gun.

But just as obviously some, like the SAFE Act, are overkill meant merely to hassle law-abiding gun owners while doing nothing to enhance public safety.

But hey, I don’t have to tell you that; nobody knows the ineffectiveness of such laws better than you.

Of course, if I’m wrong and as a criminal, by definition, you don’t follow the law, then the SAFE Act will have accomplished nothing. In that case, the law, its recertification mandate and the legislative process leading up to it would be the very definition of SNAFU in New York State: Situation normal, all %$#@*& up.

Very truly yours,

Potential Victim (of both you and New York’s gun laws)

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