State Assembly SAFE Act reforms shot down by committee

Assemblyman Andy Goodell continues to push for repeal of the SAFE Act, despite another setback this week.

A Monday meeting of the State Assembly’s Codes Committee left many disappointed after bills to amend Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act were rejected.

The committee’s Democratic majority blocked the legislation from coming to the floor for a vote or for debate – bills ranging from complete repeal of the SAFE Act to those in support of repealing restrictions applying to rifles.

“Where there’s tremendous disagreement is that the SAFE Act made a large group of several million otherwise lawful rifles illegal due to cosmetic characteristics,” said Goodell, R-Jamestown. “These characteristics do not make a rifle more dangerous.”

Under the law, which was passed in January 2013, a semi-automatic rifle with a detachable clip is considered an assault rifle if it has an adjustable stock, a pistol grip, a thumb-hole stock or a threaded barrel end.

There has also been opposition to the illegality of such rifles being passed down to family members after the owner’s death. They must be transferred out of, or sold by, the state.

Goodell and 13 other Assembly members cosponsored a bill to allow the transfer of newly defined “assault rifles” to immediate family members.

“This amendment keeps weapons within the family, as opposed to selling them out of state for the state’s profit,” reads the bill.

However, it would take Assembly, Senate and the governor’s approval to make these changes.

“I’ve discussed this issue directly with the governor and will continue to bring it to his attention,” Goodell said. “In terms of this session, it’s unlikely that these amendments will go anywhere without support of the governor. He’ll only support them if he thinks it’s to his political advantage, which is why it’s extremely important for hunters and rifle owners to be as vocal as possible with the governor’s office.”

Another way to bring the amendments up for a vote is for both parties to communicate in a bipartisan manner on provisions of the bill, without affecting other aspects of the law.

There has been tremendous support for repeal of the SAFE Act.

According to Thomas King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, more than $500,000 has been spent on litigation to overturn it.

King also said it was a “victory” when the act’s seven-round magazine limit was deemed “unconstitutional” by the Western New York Federal District Court.

Other amendments have been made to allow those in law enforcement to carry magazines with more than seven rounds.

Opposing views in the capital, other than differing political parties, are regional, Goodell said.

There may be more support for repeal of the SAFE Act within rural areas, where rifle ownership is more common.

Additionally, a study performed by the Siena Research Institute found that 63 percent of New Yorkers support the SAFE Act, while only 45 percent of those polled upstate supported the law.

Still, many provisions within the act have been supported on both sides of the aisle and issue, as it expanded background checks and required comprehensive review of mental health records before granting firearms permits.

Additionally, guns must be safely stored if the owner lives with someone who has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence crime, has been involuntarily committed, or is currently under an order of protection.

Comments on this article may be sent to editorial@observertoday.com