Tens of thousands of NY citizens converged on Albany on February 28 to voice their opposition to the recently passed NY Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE Act). Many arrived in the capitol aboard one of the 187 buses which arrived from all across the state. Others chose to drive themselves and carpool together.
I was aboard one of three buses from the Ogdensburg area along with 37 other people on board our bus. There were also buses from Canton and Potsdam that all departed at 6:00 AM on the cold snowy morning of February 28.
The rally was organized and sponsored by the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association. Participants were encouraged to make appointments to speak with their representatives in the morning and then join the rally outside the capitol building at noon to listen to various guest speakers. Among the speakers were the NRA president David Keene, State Senator Patricia Ritchie who was one of the few Republican senators to vote against the bill, and various other local and state politicians and leaders. Attendees of the rally were well behaved, many sporting Gadsden flags with the famous revolutionary war era motto "Don't tread on me." Among the crowd were many NY State Troopers and NY State Sheriff Deputies who stand in opposition to the SAFE Act who believe the law will not make citizens safer. To the contrary, the SAFE Act will actually put law enforcement officers own lives in jeopardy, as they now have to enforce a law that requires them to arrest and/or confiscate certain firearms from citizens who lawfully owned such firearms prior to the SAFE Act who refuse to register certain firearms.
Some of the most controversial portions of the law are:
Banning a large amount of semi-automatic sporting firearms based on the firearm having at least one cosmetic feature, such as an adjustable stock, which allows people of different heights and statures to use the same firearm without making permanent modifications to the firearm. Or the presence of a simple pistol grip or foregrip (which allows a hunter or a target shooter to stabilize their firearm and be more accurate)can now make a firearm which was legal under the old NYS law, now illegal under the new law.
Another provision in the new law now outlaws any magazines with a capacity of over 7 rounds. A change from the old law which allowed 10 round magazines. Previously owned 10 round magazines can be kept and are legal, but only if you load no more than 7 bullets into them. Under the old law magazines with a capacity of over 10 rounds could be kept if they were made prior to the enactment of the old law. The new law now outlaws all the previously legal pre-ban magazines and requires owners of those magazines to sell them to someone who can legally possess them, or the owners can destroy them, or surrender the magazines to law enforcement to dispose of.
The new law also now mandates that anyone wishing to purchase any ammunition must receive a background check prior to the purchase of ammo. This provision will likely greatly burden gun shops and sporting goods stores, with longer wait times for customers and employees alike, which will be tied up performing background checks for anyone and everyone wishing to buy a simple box of ammunition. The new system for ammo purchases will also red flag and put individuals on a watch list if they purchase a certain amount of ammo which the government still has refused to define.
An even more controversial provision in the new law requires the owners of certain semi-automatic sporting firearms to register with the state in order to keep their firearms which were legally purchased under the old law. Opponents of the SAFE Act are greatly troubled by this provision because they argue historically, registration always leads to confiscation. Opponents also argue that criminals aren't going to follow this part of the law, nor will it stop any criminal from possessing any firearm or magazine which this law bans or heavily regulates.
For the majority of the participants, they all agreed that the law (SAFE Act) is too restrictive, over reaching, and will do nothing to stop guns from getting into criminal hands. Almost all disagreed with the manner in which the law was passed. The law was passed through the state senate on the dark of night of January 14. Senators were given a mere 30 minutes to look the whole bill over before passing it. The bill was written behind closed doors in the weeks leading up to its passage, with absolutely zero public input. The bill bypassed the NY Constitutional provision requiring a 3 day wait to vote on the bill after copies of the bill are delivered to the desks of legislators. Governor Andrew Cuomo used a controversial constitutional provision called "message of necessity" which bypasses the 3 day vote rule and allows a bill be put up for an immediate vote. State Senator Dean Skelos, Senate Republican Leader allowed the controversial piece to go to the senate floor for a vote and advocated and voted for the legislation, leading many citizens to charge Senator Skelos with making backroom deals and not voting according to his constituency.
This will most likely not be the last rally to be held in the state capitol in opposition to the SAFE Act. Ever since the law was passed, various rallies were held in Albany, with some coinciding with certain rally dates taking place in states all across the country in opposition to similar legislation being considered at the federal level and in states all across the country.