Hunters and competitive shooters fired questions about the state’s new gun control law at state police during a forum Wednesday, but left frustrated as a prominent inquiry was left unanswered: Why was the law implemented?
“You don’t know the why. You’re just implementing the law that got passed by the Legislature,” said Matthew Caron of Galway to applause.
Caron was one of about 100 people attending the event organized by New York State Police and held at the Schenectady County Public Library to explain the new gun control legislation.
Formally known as the NY SAFE Act, the law bans sale of assault-style weapons, caps the amount of rounds a magazine can hold at seven, requires private gun sellers to conduct background checks on prospective buyers and increases penalties on people using illegal guns.
The law was prompted by the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Dec. 14, and the murder of two firefighters and wounding of three other emergency personnel by an ex-convict during their response to a fire at his house in West Webster, Monroe County, the day before Christmas.
Col. Thomas Fazio, field commander of the New York State Police, stressed that people had little to fear from the legislation.
“We’re not going to be coming crashing into your houses and taking your guns,” Fazio said.
People who own assault weapons currently are allowed to keep them but must register them with New York State Police no later than April 15, 2014. There is no fee.
If gun owners remove one of the features that define the gun an assault weapon, they do not have to register the gun. These features include folding or telescoping stock, protruding pistol grip, flash suppressor, muzzle brake and others.
People also have the option of selling their assault weapons to out-of-state dealers.
Effective April 15 of this year, only magazines capable of containing seven rounds or less can be sold in New York.
Steven Baker of Knox said he has three rifles that would now be banned under the law and questioned the purpose of the legislation.
“I do not believe that this law will save one life, stop one school shooting or take the gun out of the hands of one criminal,” he said.
Sgt. Jim Sherman of the state police’s Pistol Permit Bureau said it is not police’s job to justify the law.
“Those who don’t like the law are not going to be convinced it’s a good law,” he said.
Other questions included how much ammunition would a person have to purchase before it raised a red flag with police.
Sherman said there is not a magic number, but police will easily know that a person is a target shooter and buys set quantities of ammunition.
State Police officials also said they anticipated there would be legal challenges to the law as they could not provide an answer for every hypothetical question posed. One person asked what would happen if he owned one of these types of weapons and leaves it at the house, where his wife uses to defend herself.
Frank Spadaro, a member of both the SaraSpa and Clifton Park gun clubs, said there are probably few crimes committed with modern sporting rifles. “This is a knee jerk situation that we have all put up with.”
Investigator Pat Hogan of state police’s Gun Investigation Unit said legislators were trying to reduce the chances these weapons get into the hands of potential mass shooters. Any remedy lies with the legislators.
People with gun-related questions are encouraged to visit the website wwwNYSAFEAct.com or call a special hotline at 1-855-LAWGUNS (1-855-529-4867).