In the coming months, many New York gun owners will have to take action to stay within the law.
According to Assemblyman Tony Jordan, R-Jackson, that could be tricky.
“It’s a poorly written bill,” he said. “My staff and I spent two hours just trying to understand the differing effective dates of various provisions.”
The law bans the sale of most semiautomatic assault rifles with removable clips and decreases the maximum clip capacity of handguns, as well as rifles, from 10 to seven rounds. That part of the law changes the game for gun dealers, but the collections of some gun owners will also be affected.
Even after three days of near-constant immersion in the legislation, Jordan was only comfortable saying what the law “most likely meant” for gun owners.
Owners of assault style rifles won’t have to sell or give them up, but rather register them within a year of Tuesday.
“If it’s not registered, that’s either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on which section of the bill you’re reading,” he said.
Owners of semiautomatic pistols won’t have to file additional paperwork or replace or retrofit their 10-round clips, but they will have to count the bullets while loading. If they put in more than seven rounds, they’ve broken the law.
Even before the legislation, large-capacity clips holding more than 10 rounds were illegal if manufactured after 1994. The new law removes that exemption, which is where things get a little tricky.
Jordan said all large-capacity clips, including those that have been retrofitted but could easily be modified to hold more than 10 rounds, must either be permanently retrofitted or destroyed. That provision takes effect immediately, but offenders won’t be criminally punished for several months.
“But other places in the bill say these clips are still exempt,” he said, “which is sort of the problem with this thing.”
He said those pre-1994 clips could be sold out of state in the next few months, but he hesitates to recommend it, as it could be illegal.
In a few months, he said, getting caught in possession of such a clip would constitute either a felony or misdemeanor. However, if the owner can prove he didn’t know the clip was illegal and gets rid of it in 30 days, he won’t be charged.
For those hoping to become gun owners, things are also pretty tricky. Steve Borst, owner of Target Sports in Rotterdam, said one of his largest suppliers called Wednesday morning to say they won’t send him any firearms until they get clarifications on the new law.
“They don’t want to somehow break a law just because they didn’t read it correctly,” he said. “In a few weeks, we won’t have anything to sell and no way to get in more.”
John Havlick, owner of Frank’s Guns in Mayfield, said most semiautomatic pistols only come with a 10-round clip. As the rest of the country can still buy those clips legally, he doesn’t think any of the major manufacturers, like Glock and Ruger, will bother making a seven-round magazine.
“I’ll have to order in a bunch of revolvers,” he said, and prospective handgun buyers will have to make due any way they can.
The new law also requires background checks for ammunition purchases. Borst already runs such checks through the FBI on gun buyers but said the same system doesn’t work for ammunition.
“The FBI only runs checks for guns,” he said. “We’ll have to do it through the state police, but they don’t have a system in place.”
That provision doesn’t take effect for a few months, according to Jordan, giving state police time to get a system up and running.
“But what if they don’t get it done?” he asked.