Beefed Up Gun Control Law Survives Challenge

     ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) – New York’s governor did not violate the state constitution in seeking quick passage of gun-control legislation in the aftermath of the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, an appeals court ruled.
     Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, known as the NY SAFE Act, to the state Legislature in mid-January, just weeks after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at the school in Newtown, Conn.
     The new law expanded New York’s definition of banned assault weapons to semiautomatic pistols, rifles, and shotguns that have detachable magazines and military-style features. It also outlawed high-capacity magazines and limited who could sell ammunition.
     The passage came via a so-called message of necessity, a procedural way to move legislation along for quick consideration by the state Legislature. Normally, bills must “age” for three days on legislators’ desks before final action.
     For the NY SAFE Act, Cuomo issued his message of necessity on Jan. 14. The state Senate passed the bill later the same day and the Assembly approved it the next day. Cuomo signed the legislation into law Jan. 15.
     The NY SAFE Act spawned a number of lawsuits, including a pro se complaint against the governor, the Legislature and legislative leaders that challenged the constitutionality of using the message of necessity to secure quick passage.
     The lead plaintiff in that action, Robert Schulz of suburban Glens Falls, sought a preliminary injunction in Albany County Supreme Court. He contended the law was “repugnant” to the aging period outlined in the state constitution and should be voided.
     Joining his complaint were 1,200 other plaintiffs from 59 of New York’s 62 counties. The New York State Association of Counties, the New York State Association of County Clerks and the New York State Sheriffs’ Association filed affidavits supporting the lawsuit.
     Schulz wanted the preliminary injunction to keep provisions of the new law from taking effect – some immediately, others over the next few months – but Justice Thomas McNamara denied the motion.
     A four-judge panel of the Appellate Division’s Third Judicial Department affirmed Wednesday.
     Schulz “failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of his claim,” as required whenever a preliminary injunction is sought, and so his motion “was properly denied,” according to the five-page ruling.
     Schulz’s burden was even greater because the challenged legislation had a strong presumption of constitutionality already, the court found.
     While Article III, Section 14, of the state constitution requires a three-day aging period on bills, that provision “may be circumvented” if a governor makes a case for moving more quickly, according to the ruling.
     “With regard to a judicial challenge to a message of necessity, so long as some facts are stated, a court may not intervene because ‘the sufficiency of the facts stated by the governor in a certificate of necessity is not subject to judicial review,'” Presiding Justice Karen Peters wrote for the panel, citing precedent.
     Cuomo’s message of necessity, portions of which Peters included in the opinion, cited the need to move fast against weapons and ammunition that are “so dangerous” and “so lethal” that New Yorkers’ lives are at stake.
     “As the governor clearly made some factual statements, judicial review of the certificate of necessity is at an end and NY Constitution, Article III, Section 14 provides no basis for this court to intervene,” Peters wrote.
     Justices John Lahtinen, Leslie Stein and John Egan Jr. joined the opinion.
     Assistant Attorney General Victor Paladino argued for the state.

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