A previous version of this story misidentified the type of gun used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It was a Bushmaster M4 Type Carbine.
CAPITAL REGION — New Yorkers are required to register their assault weapons under the state’s new gun-control law today — or face time behind bars.
Today is the deadline for state residents who own guns labeled as assault weapons under the New York SAFE Act to register them with the state. Assault weapons are those with a “military-style feature” such as a detachable magazine, pistol grip or telescoping stock.
If gun owners fail to register their firearms today, they could be charged with a class A misdemeanor and spend up to a year in county jail. If an individual unintentionally fails to register, a 30-day amnesty period will be extended, according to the New York State Police.
Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey said he has attended pro-gun rallies in the Capital Region over the past year at which thousands of people from across the state said they do not plan to register their assault weapons.
“So many people have said they won’t register their guns. I haven’t been told personally, but I’m sure there are some people who have not registered in Fulton County and some who have,” Lorey said. “But I think everyone who plans to register their weapons has already done so.”
Pat Popolizio, owner of Taylor & Vadney Sporting Goods in Schenectady, said even if they don’t plan to register, customers have been keeping quiet on the matter.
“Everybody is kind of keeping to themselves and I haven’t really caught any vibe at all,” Popolizio said. “I don’t know what is going to happen and I guess it’s going to be something that we just have to wait and see how this will be enforced.”
He said his store has been busier than usual with the demand for semi-automatic rifles skyrocketing since the SAFE Act took effect in January 2013. The law came one month after a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. 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.
The SAFE Act is considered among the toughest gun-control laws in the nation. New Yorkers Against Gun Violence said in a news release on Monday that “weapons of war have no place in our communities.” The group supports Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push for an assault weapon registry, along with other provisions included in the gun control law.
“The NY SAFE Act, through such measures as universal background checks on gun and ammunition sales, a stronger ban on assault weapons, and tougher penalties for illegal gun use, will protect communities all over the state,” said Leah Gunn Barrett, executive director of NYAGV. “Our strong gun-safety laws are the reason why New York has the fourth lowest gun death rate in the nation.”
Aside from the assault weapon registry, the SAFE Act also includes a seven-bullet magazine limit, with the maximum capacity for all magazines set at 10 rounds. But after a federal district court judge found the provision unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, the state police do not plan to enforce the limit.
The gun control law also requires background checks for all gun sales and ammunition sales and pistol permit holders and owners of registered assault weapons have to renew them every five years under the SAFE Act.
Earlier this month, thousands of people rallied outside the state Capitol in Albany speaking out against the SAFE Act. They said the law targets law-abiding citizens, and they threatened to avoid the assault weapon registry.
State Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, said some residents in Saratoga County do not plan to register their weapons, while others have modified their firearms to comply with the law. “Everyone is concerned about registration leading to confiscation,” she said.
It is unclear how many people in New York own assault weapons because registration was not previously required. It is also unknown how many people have registered their firearms under the SAFE Act because a provision in the law prevents the state police from releasing that information.
Asked how state police would crack down on people who do not register their assault weapons, a spokesman said, “Enforcement will be handled the same as other laws as mandated through state police policy and procedure.”
Vic Ferrante, a veteran and member of Guan Ho Ha Fish and Game Club in Scotia, said he has spoken to many people who are concerned about registering their assault weapons with the state and do not plan to do so.
“The big concern with a lot of people is if they register their guns the state could confiscate them in the future,” Ferrante said. “A lot of people are saying they are not going to register, plain and simple. Criminals aren’t going to register their guns and aren’t going to follow this law. It is only going to be affecting law-abiding gun owners like myself.”