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Rod Watson: I stand with Collins on SAFE Act 'abomination'

Hypocrisy never sounded so good.

But let’s not quibble now that Rep. Chris Collins has finally hit on something I can agree with: New York’s SAFE Act is a useless abomination.

From the silly attempt to limit magazine size to seven rounds (firearms manufacturers laughed!) to the so-called "assault weapons" ban that is actually just a cosmetic features ban, the law was always designed more for PR than anything else.

Like those commercials of yore encouraging kids to "Be the first on your block to ....", Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanted bragging rights for having the nation’s toughest gun control measure, as if banning bayonet mounts and thumbholes in the stock will stop crime. Some provisions may have real pros and cons and be worth debating. But in his overreach to ban all such features, Cuomo played to the crowd that doesn’t shoot and doesn’t know any better.

Collins’ Second Amendment Guarantee Act would undo much of that foolishness by preventing states from putting any restrictions on long guns that exceed those imposed by federal law. That means, for instance, that AR-15s and AK-47s that function like any other rifle no longer would be deemed "assault rifles" just because they look scary.

Collins proposal to overturn SAFE Act faces long legislative road

Collins’ bill would not affect states’ ability to regulate handguns, meaning New Yorkers would still face interminable delays in getting a pistol permit. They also still would have to get the permit before being allowed to touch a gun and actually learn to shoot. To understand how ludicrous that is, imagine getting a driver’s license before ever practicing how to drive. This is what passes for "common sense" gun control in New York.

But the biggest problem with the SAFE Act, and every other such law, is that we have free travel between states. As The Buffalo News documented in its 2005 series "The Damage Done," homegrown thugs just drive down the highway to states like Ohio and Georgia and bring back whatever guns they want for use or sale on Buffalo’s streets.

SAFE Act is off-target on basic rights

Yet the SAFE Act merely hassles New York’s law-abiding gun owners while doing nothing to prevent such trafficking. The most it can do is tack on an additional charge when some hoodlum shoots at someone – as if murder or attempted murder isn’t already a crime.

That’s why a federal response makes sense. States are limited in what they can do, and New York already was doing all it reasonably could before piling on with the SAFE Act.

The irony, of course, is to hear a Republican like Collins argue that the feds should step in – even if it means doing less, not more. This is someone who rails against the "federal government knows best" approach, yet now he wants Washington to overrule New York. Apparently, just as some people employ situational ethics, he employs situational federalism.

But when it comes to the SAFE Act, at least he’s right – even if political hurdles mean his measure may never become law.

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