Among the plaintiffs in a suit filed in Albany is the Second Amendment Foundation, a Washington state-based nonprofit with more than 650,000 members nationwide.
The lawsuit targets a provision of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, or NY SAFE Act, capping the number of rounds that can be put in a magazine. The new law banned high-capacity magazines – limiting them to 10 rounds – but set at seven the number of individual cartridges that can be loaded into magazines legally.
The seven-round cap impedes the individual’s right to self-defense that is central to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, according to the plaintiffs.
“Whatever governmental interests might justify the restriction of ammunition magazines to a 10-round capacity, these interests do not sufficiently justify restricting law-abiding gun owners from loading more than 7 rounds in their otherwise lawful 8-, 9- and 10-round magazines,” the lawsuit states.
“A person with 10 rounds of ammunition available will be better able to defend himself or herself from a criminal gang, or from a drug-crazed criminal who continues attacking even after being shot, than a person who has only 7 rounds of ammunition available before they must reload their gun,” the plaintiffs state.
The plaintiffs include Matthew Caron of Saratoga County, near Albany, and Matthew Gudger of Suffolk County, on Long Island, who are identified as licensed handgun owners. In addition to the Second Amendment Foundation, which maintains a Buffalo office, two firearms rights groups also are plaintiffs: SCOPE Inc. (Shooters’ Committee on Political Education), which has county chapters throughout New York, and Long Island Firearms LLC, which has a primarily Long Island focus.
The NY SAFE Act was proposed soon after the December 2012 shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead. It was signed into law in mid-January by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit with State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico.
The law, which is the subject of other federal and state lawsuits, expanded the definition of banned assault weapons to include semiautomatic pistols, rifles and shotguns that have detachable magazines and military-style features. It also outlawed magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.
Cuomo, on an interactive state website dedicated to the law, says the SAFE Act was designed to stop gun purchases by criminals and “the dangerously mentally ill” through universal background checks and increased penalties for illegal guns. “For hunters, sportsmen and law-abiding gun owners,” he says, “this new law preserves and protects your right to buy, sell, keep or use your guns.”
The plaintiffs, though, say the law makes it illegal for gun owners who legally possess a 10-round magazine to fully load it, unless they are at an incorporated firing range or shooting competition. The limitation “is not sufficiently related to any compelling or otherwise adequate governmental interest,” the plaintiffs contend.
They seek declaratory and injunctive relief, along with attorneys’ fees and costs.
The plaintiffs are represented by New York City attorney David Jensen and by Robert Firriolo of Boutin & Altieri in Carmel.
Another lawsuit against the SAFE Act was filed in Federal Court in Buffalo in March by gun dealers, owners and sports-shooting groups who challenged the overall constitutionality of the law. The complaint later was joined on an amicus basis by the elected sheriffs of five New York counties, their statewide association and several law enforcement membership groups.
In state court, a pro se lawsuit signed by more than 1,200 plaintiffs from 59 of New York’s 62 counties challenged the SAFE Act on procedural grounds, saying its quick passage skirted prescribed legislative rules. A state judge denied the preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs, a decision that was affirmed on appeal in July.
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