Federal Judge rules on SAFE Act, seven-round magazine limit: 'tenuous, strained and unsupported' (VIDEO)

Judge William M. Skretny

Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. (Photo Credit: Buffalo News)

A federal judge on Tuesday handed down a ruling on the controversial New York SAFE Act, upholding a majority of the sweeping gun-control law while striking down a portion that limits magazine capacity to seven rounds.

In his decision, Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny declared that the SAFE Act’s provision prohibiting gun owners from loading more than seven rounds in a 10-round magazine was unconstitutional.

“The seven-round limit fails the relevant test because the purported link between the ban and the State’s interest is tenuous, strained, and unsupported in the record,” wrote Skretny.

Now, moving forward, New York gun owners will be able to load 10 rounds in their 10-round magazines.

“The court basically said it was an arbitrary number,” Attorney Robert Brenna Jr., who is representing the New York State Sheriff’s Association in the lawsuit, told a local NBC News affiliate. “It was an arbitrary figure for someone to come up with that a clip must be restricted to seven rounds.”

However, Judge Skretny upheld the law’s expanded ban on so-called “assault weapons” and its retroactive ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammo claiming that they accord with the state’s “interest in public safety” and do not “impermissibly infringe on Plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights.”

As noted in previous Guns.com articles, the SAFE Act implemented a number of inane measures that restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Among them, it strengthened the state’s ban on “assault weapons” by broadening the definition (changing the criteria from two cosmetic features, e.g. barrel shroud and a pistol grip, down to just one, e.g. a barrel shroud) and required registration of all the newly defined “assault weapons.”

Additionally, the NY SAFE Act placed a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and does not permit gun owners to load more than seven rounds in those 10-round magazines. There is no grandfather clause for magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, gun owners will either have to sell them out of state, destroy them or turn them over to state police by Jan. 15, 2014 — which is, for all intents and purposes, confiscation.

Gun owners will be allowed to own their registered “assault weapons” for life. However, they are prohibited from passing them down to family members or friends. Instead, they must destroy them, turn them over to state police or sell them out of state — a de facto way to dry up the supply of these commonly owned firearms.

With the exception of the seven-round limit and a provisions dealing with muzzle breaks and pistol versions of automatic weapons that were struck down for being unconstitutionally vague, Judge Skretny ruled that “The majority of the challenged provisions withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Both sides of the gun divide believe that the judge’s ruling is the beginning of a protracted legal fight that could ultimately end up before the Supreme Court as the issue of to what extent a state government can regulate modern sporting rifles and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds is one that has to be decided.

“The fact that we have gotten past the first step here and we have judge’s ruling, the filings can be fine-tuned,” said Ken Mathison, the former president of the Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE).

“The new arguments in the next level and new filings can refine themselves based on what he said and every level there will be more refinement,” Mathison continued, pointing to the potential for a long appeals process.

The SAFE Act, or Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, was the first gun control bill passed in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. The SAFE Act was rammed through the state Legislature in the dead of night (after 11 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2013); lawmakers were only given two hours to read the bill as the governor waved the mandatory three-day legislative review period.

Following its passage a number of organizations filed lawsuits challenging its constitutionality, including The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, the NRA, the Second Amendment Foundation, SCOPE, among others.

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