On Friday, New York Senate Republicans and the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a “memorandum of understanding” to suspend vital parts of the controversial SAFE Act. Led by Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), lawmakers have reached an agreement with Governor Cuomo to halt any plans to conduct background checks on ammunition, suspend the development of an ammunition sales database, and to allow internet sales of ammunition in New York.
These provisions were once a key part of the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act of 2013, which was signed into law shortly after the Newtown shooting in 2012. Gun rights groups, which have long worked to overturn the SAFE Act, called the new development a step in the right direction.
“This is a clear victory for Second Amendment rights in New York,” said Senator James Seward (R-Oneonta), one of many who supported new amendments to the SAFE Act. “While I will continue to work for full repeal of the poorly crafted, over-reaching NY-SAFE Act, this is a significant accomplishment—and constitutes the only modifications that have been made to this law since it was enacted two years ago over my objection.”
The SAFE Act drew criticism in 2013 when it was fast-tracked by Governor Cuomo, who waived the mandatory three-day aging period for the bill and signed it immediately after approval from the Assembly. Often called the toughest gun control law in the United States by both supporters and opponents, the SAFE Act initially outlawed a number of “assault weapons,” banned magazines capable of holding more than seven rounds, and called for the registration of ammunition purchases, among other provisions. It seems that Republican lawmakers have now been able to shelve at least one item on that list.
“This agreement is a victory for every law-abiding gun owner and our hardworking, overburdened state taxpayers. The ammunition database and background check requires unproven technology that doesn’t exist, and establishing it would have cost the state up to $100 million, which would be a colossal waste of tax dollars,” Senator Catherine Young (R-Olean) said in a press release.
A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo told syracuse.com that the agreement does not alter the SAFE Act in any way, stating that the ammunition sales database will simply be shelved until the technology for it is ready. Republican lawmakers, including Seward, countered that as long as they maintain control of the Senate, that day will never come.
“It’s a good beginning,” Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association (NYSRPA), told The Buffalo News.
Gun rights advocates say that the suspension of the ammunition database is a small victory but that the ultimate goal remains the repeal of the SAFE Act altogether. NYSRPA previously joined with the NRA in a lawsuit challenging the SAFE Act on constitutional grounds, which they claimed was constitutionally vague and violated the Second Amendment. Lawmakers who oppose the law say they are continuing efforts for a full repeal.