Last week a federal judge declared a portion of the New York SAFE Act that prohibits gun owners from loading more than seven rounds in their 10-round magazine to be unconstitutional.
In the wake of that decision there was a lingering question of whether the ruling was binding, meaning should law enforcement across the state continue to enforce the seven-round magazine limit under the SAFE Act or adhere to the judge’s ruling and stop enforcing that particular provision of the law.
To an extent, both the police and the public have clarity on the matter. Essentially, both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York Sheriffs Association agree that the judge’s ruling applies statewide until an appeals court or higher court decides otherwise.
“The law is what a court says it is until it’s appealed and another court says differently,” the governor told reporters on Monday.
Cuomo added that he was pleased that the judge upheld the majority of the SAFE Act, which was passed in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“I think it was good the law was upheld. But I’m sure there are going to be appeals,” said Cuomo.
Meanwhile, the state Sheriffs Association said that it would be in the best interest of law enforcement to refrain from busting people who load 10 rounds in their 10 round magazines, instead of the SAFE Act’s limit of seven rounds in a 10-round magazine.
“Our best analysis of it is it [the judge's decision] probably applies statewide,” Peter Kehoe, the group’s executive director, told The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
“There’s been a court of competent jurisdiction that said parts of it are unconstitutional. If [sheriffs] aggressively enforce something that they’ve had notice is unconstitutional, then we think they expose themselves to liability,” he continued.
The Sheriffs Association’s rationale was endorsed by the main plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the SAFE Act, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.
“What would happen if people went by what the court said and loaded 10 rounds in their magazine and then get stopped or searched for any reason?” said NYSRPA President Thomas King. “It would lead to a huge boondoggle of lawsuit cases, particularly after the Sheriff’s Association came out with its opinion.”
Bottom line: New Yorkers can once again load 10 rounds into their 10 round magazines.
As for the other portions of the SAFE Act, the expanded ban on so-called ‘assault weapons,’ the confiscatory ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, the registration requirements for so-called ‘assault weapons,’ among others, all of those remain the law of the land — at least for time being, i.e., until we have a new ruling from an appeals court.
Both the state Attorney General and the NYSRPA have filed appeals, the former in an attempt to keep the 7-round limit intact, the latter in an attempt to have the whole law struck down.