Rifle group tries to halt SAFE Act

JOHNSTOWN – The New York Rifle and Pistol Association plans to take legal action Monday to stop New York’s new gun-control measures.

Association President Thomas King and state Assemblyman Marc Butler talked about the legal effort with about 100 local gun owners and gun-rights advocates at the Pine Tree Rifle Club on Wednesday.

King said his group will file a petition for a temporary restraining order against the SAFE Act in federal court in Buffalo.

The order could block the SAFE Act from going into effect while the association argues the law’s constitutionality. The group filed a lawsuit against the SAFE Act on March 21.

“Whether or not that [restraining order] goes through is up to the judge, but we feel that we have a good shot of at least getting part of the ban, the magazine ban, put on hold, which is the thing that is going to make most of us criminals,” King said.

The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, known as the SAFE Act, was passed by the state Legislature on Jan. 15 and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

The measure includes many requirements. Among them, it bans possession of any high-capacity magazines. The maximum capacity for a detachable magazine was reduced from 10 rounds to seven. The measure quires ammunition dealers to do background checks. Dealers are required to report all sales to the state. The law also requires the creation of a registry of assault weapons. The measure increases sentences for gun crimes.

A member of the crowd Wednesday asked if the judge reviewing the case was a Democrat or a Republican. According to King, the judge was appointed during the term of George W. Bush, but he said that does not matter.

“You do not want an idealogue making a decision on your constitutional rights,” King said.

The group’s lawsuit is the best chance to remove the SAFE Act from the books, King said.

He said it would be extremely difficult to repeal the act through the state Senate and Assembly.

“The act creates new offenses with severe criminal penalties for previously lawful activities involving the acquisition and possession of rifles, handguns, shotguns, ammunition magazines and ammunition. As such, the act severely and adversely affects plaintiffs and millions of other law-abiding gun owners in New York,” the lawsuit states.

King said the lawsuit focuses on four or five arguments, raising questions about the constitutionality of the act, equal protection under the law and the commerce clause.

King said the lawsuit could be one of the most significant Second Amendment cases in recent years.

“There [are] a lot of issues here,” King said.

Butler said gun-rights advocates have proposed laws that would change the definition of what is considered an assault weapon.

“In reality, the term assault weapon is a media term,” Butler said.

He said an assault weapon is a gun with the appearance of a military weapon, but it’s no more dangerous that a traditional firearm.

Arthur Cleveland can be reached at