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Collins proposal to overturn SAFE Act faces long legislative road

WASHINGTON – The SAFE Act will be in mortal danger if Rep. Chris Collins gets his way.

But the Clarence Republican's legislative proposal for overturning New York's tough gun control law, and others like it, remains a long way from becoming law. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and congressional Democrats are likely to do all they can to prevent that from happening.

Collins's proposed law -- the Second Amendment Guarantee Act, or SAGA -- would overturn current state and local gun laws that are more stringent than federal regulations, while blocking states and localities from enacting any such laws in the future.

It's a proposal likely to resonate with pro-gun Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.

"If the bill is as described, I can see us being very supportive of it," said Rep. Tom Reed, a Corning Republican who had not yet seen the measure.

It's not clear that Collins' measure could cross the 60-vote threshold for passage in the Senate, given that Democrats may have the votes to block it if the measure got that far.

A spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence failed to respond to a request for comment. Yet other gun control advocates, such as State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, were quick to criticize the Collins proposal.

"SAFE Act is a common sense gun safety law," Ryan, a Buffalo Democrat, said on Twitter. Calling Collins' bill a dangerous bid to end gun safety laws, Ryan added: "He should remember all we have lost."

If Collins' measure were to become law, it would likely face legal challenges.

State officials said they believe the bill may violate the Constitution's 10th amendment.

That amendment reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

State officials also said they believe the measure could run into trouble in the federal courts in that it appears to target New York, whereas the Supreme Court has ruled previously that Congress must treat states equally.

Collins said the measure is a common-sense rebuke to Cuomo's controversial Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act.

“This legislation would protect the Second Amendment rights of New Yorkers that were unjustly taken away by Andrew Cuomo,” said Collins. “I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and have fought against all efforts to condemn these rights. I stand with the law-abiding citizens of this state that have been outraged by the SAFE Act and voice my commitment to roll back these regulations.”

Cuomo issued a statement denouncing Collins' gun legislation as a blatant political ploy.

"Chris Collins is turning his back on New Yorkers and putting millions of people at profound risk," Cuomo said. "By fighting to roll back vital legislation that protects the people of the Empire State, Collins is demonstrating once again that he is beholden to no one but the gun lobby and entrenched special interests."

Collins' office said the federal legislation he is proposing would have a major effect in New York because the SAFE Act goes beyond federal regulations in key ways.

For example, the state law bans some semi-automatic guns with detachable magazines that are legal under federal law. The SAFE Act bans magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, and doesn't permit gun owners putting more than seven bullets in magazines.

Both of those provisions would be overturned if Collins' legislation were to become law.

The bill would also affect tough anti-gun laws in other states.

Under Collins' bill, states and local governments would not be able to regulate, prohibit or require registration and licensing of firearms beyond what the federal government mandates. Any current or future laws enacted by a state or locality would be void if they exceed federal firearms regulations.

The National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, its lobbying arm, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Collins proposal already appeared to meet with approval from members of the Hamburg Rod and Gun Club, where the congressman held his press conference. People who attended the press event said that Cuomo started tweeting his criticism of the measure while the event was still going on, prompting the crowd to boo every gubernatorial tweet.

Collins said his constituents' concerns prompted him to introduce the bill.

“Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act stripped New Yorkers of their Second Amendment rights," Collins said. "SAGA will give those rights back to New York residents and guarantee no one will take them away again.”

Cuomo said Collins' bill is an attempt to repeal the progress New York has made since it enacted the nation's toughest gun control law in 2013, months after a shooter killed 20 schoolchildren in Sandy Hook, Conn.

"This disturbing bill puts New Yorkers in harm's way - and to make it worse, there is no basis for it. None," Cuomo said. "The courts have resoundingly upheld New York's law as consistent with the Constitution."

Buffalo attorney Christopher J. Sasiadek noted on Facebook that Collins' bill could have an unintended consequence. Sasiadek argued that if Congress bars states from legislating on the gun issue, a future Congress might decide it has to take matters into its own hands and pass far-reaching national gun control legislation.

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