Capital Region residents registered more than 3,100 assault weapons under the New York SAFE Act and more than 44,000 have been registered statewide, according to registration numbers released this week.
Groups on both sides of the SAFE Act attempted to put those numbers in prospective Tuesday.
Those against the act argued that number is a fraction of the number out there that were eligible to be registered. They contend the numbers show public dissatisfaction with the law.
A group in support of the act, however, praised the gun owners who registered and claimed public opinion for their side and said the real estimates for how many assault weapons were available to be registered is unknown.
The numbers were released this week to a Monroe County radio host and SAFE Act opponent Bill Robinson.
Robinson had filed a Freedom Of Information Law request with the state police last year for the numbers but was initially denied. He appealed to a judge, who ruled last month that the information should be released.
In all, 44,485 defined assault weapons were registered statewide by the April 15, 2014 deadline. Those weapons were registered to 23,344 individuals.
Locally, Saratoga County had the highest number of registered weapons at 939. In second place locally was Albany County with 738, then Rensselaer County with 565 and Schenectady County with 434.
Schoharie County had 206, Fulton County 143 and Montgomery County 121.
Assault weapons are defined by the SAFE ACT as those with a “military-style feature” such as a detachable magazine, pistol grip or telescoping stock.
The act included potential penalties for those who did not register their assault weapons. Those included a misdemeanor charge and possible jail time.
Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond said he didn’t expect as many registrations in his county as the numbers showed.
“I was surprised that there was that many registered in this county,” Desmond said. “I’m sure that there are quite a few out there that haven’t been registered.” Desmond said.
He said those who didn’t register show they are not in favor of the act by not abiding by it.
Robinson cited manufacturers in estimating that there were 800,000 registrable defined assault weapons in the state, making the number actually registered a fraction of that.
He argued that means very little public compliance with the law.
“It’s an absolute, utter failure,” Robinson said the numbers show of the SAFE Act. Robinson’s radio show is heard in Western New York and online at 2ndAmendmentShow.com.
Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association issued a statement Tuesday expressing amusement at “pathetically low” numbers. He argued many of those who did register were law enforcement officials mandated to do so by their departments.
“In short, New Yorkers have, by their lack of compliance, effectively repealed a portion of the NY SAFE Act,” King’s statement reads. “Congratulations to the gun owners of New York State.”
The group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence issued its own statement, calling the number of people who registered no mere handful. The group also questioned exactly how many of the weapons are out there, saying that number is simply unknown.
“The law does not require individuals to surrender their assault weapons, merely to register them,” the group’s statement reads. “It is in the gun owner’s interest to register their property in case of theft.”
Robinson won the release of the data in state Supreme Court in Albany County. He challenged the state police’s denial of the information’s release. Arguing for Robinson was Rochester-area attorney Paloma Capanna.
The SAFE Act took effect in January 2013. The law came one month after a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that resulted in the death of 20 children and six adults. The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, used a Bushmaster M4 Type Carbine, which is modeled after the AR-15 with a telescopic stock and detachable magazines.
Aside from the assault weapon registry, the gun control law also requires background checks for all gun sales and ammunition sales and pistol permit holders. Also, owners of registered assault weapons have to renew them every five years.
There was also a magazine limit set at 10 rounds, but a federal district court judge found that unconstitutional.
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