The national debate over gun control spilled into the Sullivan County Government Center on February 21 with an elected official calling for the prosecution of Governor Andrew Cuomo and any state legislators who voted in favor of the Secure Ammunition Firearms and Enforcement Act (SAFE NY).
Alfred Steppich, a member of the board of the Town of Delaware, said during the public comment period that his town had passed a resolution against the act, but that it did not go far enough, adding, “We should hold the governor and the legislators in contempt of the Constitution, and try (them) for treason.”
The U.S. Supreme Court, however, is the ultimate arbiter of what is and is not a violation of the Constitution, and in 2008, when five of the nine members determined that the right to bear arms is an individual right, they also wrote, “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Because the SAFE NY law is primarily aimed at assault weapons, it seems possible that the court would not find it in violation of the Constitution.
Steppich cranked up the heat a notch further when he quoted officials from the past as having said, “This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized country will have full gun registration, our streets will be safer, our police will be more efficient and the world will follow our lead into the future.” He then said these remarks were made by Hilter and Stalin, suggesting that gun control laws lead to fascism.
He next suggested that journalists in this country be treated the way they are in fascist countries, which is to say tightly controlled. He said, “Let’s have the First Amendment treated like the Second Amendment. Let’s have all reporters, journalists and their assistants be licensed just like pistol permit holders in Sullivan County... have them be finger-printed, a background check, pay the fees.... Let’s have all computers, cameras, printers registered by make, model and serial number.... Wouldn’t that be fair?”
Another county resident also found fault with the SAFE ACT. Resident John Mahoney, who said he is a retired sergeant-detective from the New York City Police Department, said, “This governor and this legislature in one fell swoop have turned me into a prospective felon. What I hold in my hand is an empty eight-round magazine for a 1911, 45 caliber pistol. The governor and the legislature have stated now that I am subject to the same penalties as somebody that has committed an e-felony of luring a child, or criminally negligent homicide.”
The law says that magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition must be permanently modified to hold only 10, or be sold to an out-of-state buyer, or otherwise disposed of by January 15, 2014. Presumably Mahoney was saying that if he still possessed the magazine by that date he would be committing a felony. According to a website about the SAFE Act, however, it is not a violation of the new law to possess a magazine that is capable of holding anywhere up to 10 rounds, as long as no more than seven rounds are loaded at a time.
Further, the website, www.governor.ny.gov/2013/gun-reforms , says antique firearms, which are guns manufactured more than 50 years ago, are exempt from some aspects of the law.
County legislator Gene Benson said he is reviewing resolutions that oppose SAFE NY that have been passed by other municipalities, and a similar resolution will likely be voted on by the legislature at the next monthly county meeting on March 21.
Municipalities that have passed resolutions condemning the law include the towns of Thompson, Delaware, Callicoon, Deer Park, and Ulster County.
The law has been endorsed by the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police and the district attorneys of eight counties.