New York’s new gun law, the SAFE Act, is arguably flawed legislation. County boards and legislatures certainly have the right to play to the crowd and take the popular, if largely symbolic, step of asking the state to repeal it, as many have. But voting defiantly not to enforce it, as Schoharie’s did last week, is a step too far.
We understand that Schoharie is a rural county with a large number of gun owners who responsibly use their weapons to hunt and target-shoot. And they’ll still be able to under the new state law. The law, which tightens registration, permitting and background checks, limits the number of bullets in a magazine, and bans the sale or transfer of assault weapons, is aimed at those who would go on a shooting spree and kill large numbers of people. That’s what happened at Newtown, Ct., in December, and various places around the country in recent years.
These are minimal restrictions on individuals for the greater good of society, and state governments are perfectly justified in imposing them. As the U.S. Supreme Court said in the 2008 Heller decision, Americans have a Second Amendment right to possess guns, but that right isn’t absolute and can be regulated.
It is dismaying enough when paranoid citizens start talking about tyrannical government trying to disarm them, and vowing to resist. It’s worse when the rhetoric and defiance come from elected local officials. That’s not much different from the South’s assertion of the rights of nullification and secession in the lead-up to the Civil War.
After the floods of 2011, New York state came to the aid of Schoharie County, as did residents all over the Capital Region. It was as if we were all members of a family. Such warm feelings are jeopardized by actions like the one Schoharie County’s Board of Supervisors took last week.