When the citizens appear just as confused and uninformed about how to respond to a government mandate as the government officials in charge of enforcing it, it’s time to take a beat and get things under control.
Such is the case with a provision of New York’s SAFE Act gun control law that requires all holders of handgun licenses in New York who were registered before January 2013 to renew those licenses before the end of this month.
But according to State Police, state lawmakers and county clerks around the state, only a fraction of the 1.25 million permits have actually been renewed with just over three weeks to go.
Those who fail to re-register in time could face misdemeanor or felony charges and confiscation of their guns.
That effectively could make criminals out of thousands of otherwise law-abiding gun owners who either are unaware of the impending Jan. 31 deadline or of the requirement itself. (Many people who got their permits many years ago were told the permits never expired, so they might not be paying attention.)
State police, who handle the renewal process, said they have sent more than 372,000 letters to permit holders and have used social media, press releases and notification through the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
Still, police and many county clerks, who keep track of local permits, say they’ve only had a small number of people actually re-register their weapons.
Through the middle of December, Rensselaer County received only 2,500 recertifications out of 18,000 handgun owners in the county, while Saratoga County had received only about 4,500 out of 18,000, according to the Capitol Confidential blog. On Friday, officials in western New York offered similar statistics during a news conference calling on the deadline to be extended.
County clerks say it’s unclear who is responsible for revoking licenses that haven’t been renewed and who is responsible for confiscating weapons and for taking other sanctions against those who don’t re-register.
If a large percentage of gun owners isn’t aware of the deadline and if government officials are unsure over their responsibilities to enforce it, then it’s not right to hold people to the requirement until the confusion can be cleared up.
This isn’t a Second Amendment issue. It’s not a debate over the SAFE Act. It’s a bureaucratic issue that needs to be cleared up before any sanctions can be imposed.
In fairness to all involved, Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to lift the reregistration deadline indefinitely until the state can get its act together.