Federal judge rejects part of SAFE Act

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A federal judge has rejected a controversial portion of New York’s tough new gun law while upholding the majority of the SAFE Act.

Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny in Buffalo rejected restrictions of no more than seven bullets in a magazine, but upheld the ban on in-state sales of assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In his ruling, Skretny found the seven-round limit “tenuous, strained and unsupported” but found that the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines “do not impermissibly infringe on Plaintiff’s Second Amendment rights” and furthers the state’s “important interest in public safety.”

In addition, Skretny upheld the SAFE Act’s redefinition of an assault weapon to any weapon with a single military-style feature, such as a pistol grip. Gun owners with a weapon that fits the new description are required to register them with the state.

The federal judge also upheld that all ammunition sales in the state be required to be conducted in-person.

The case was brought forward by the New York affiliate of the National Rifle Association, sportsmen’s groups, firearms businesses and individual gun owners. Bud Schroeder is chairman of the pro-gun owners’ group, Shooters Committee on Political Education, known as SCOPE, which supported the lawsuit.

“That’s a no-brainer. It’s just about as stupid as you can get that you would take a 10-round magazine and load only seven rounds in it. No criminal is going to follow that, only honest people,” Schroeder said.

Attorney Jim Tresmond, who has filed a separate lawsuit against the SAFE Act in state court, says he wasn’t surprised by Skretny’s ruling.

“He determined that the seven-round magazine limit was to be vague and unconnected to any state interests so it could not stand as a legitimate exercise of the state’s police power,” Tresmond said.

Gun rights advocates are expected to challenge Tuesday’s ruling.

The SAFE Act has been the source of protests around the state since its passage, numerous lawsuits have been filed against it, and sheriffs as well as state and local lawmakers across New York have spoken out against its push through the Legislature by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo pushed for the law a month after the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting that left multiple children and educators dead.

“Of course, this is only one incident,” Skretny wrote. “But it is nonetheless illustrative. Studies and data support New York’s view that assault weapons are often used to devastating effect in mass shootings.”

In his ruling, the federal judge cited a study listing 62 mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982, involving the murders of four or more people, that concluded assault weapons, high-capacity magazines or both were used in more than half of them.

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