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December 31, 2013

Federal judge upholds most of New York's SAFE Act

Strikes down seven-round limit for clips

Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star

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The controversial SAFE Act -- New York's controversial ban on firearms that the state says have features of assault weapons -- was upheld today by a federal judge, though he struck down the the legislation's seven-round limit for ammunition clips.
The ruling from U.S. Chief District Judge William Skretny of the Western District of New York was the first legal test of the law that Gov. Andrew Cuomo hailed as the state's response to the December 2012 massacre of schoolchildren and teachers at a Connecticut public school.
The decision is expected to be appealed by gun rights groups, and some legal observers believe the case will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“New York is entitled to regulate assault weapons and large-capacity magazines under the principal presumption that the law will reduce their prevalence and accessability (sic) in New York State, and thus, inversely, increase public safety," the judge ruled.
He added:  "The ban on the number of rounds a gun owner is permitted to load into his 10-round magazine, however, will obviously have no such effect because 10-round magazines remain legal. ...The seven-round limit thus carries a much stronger possibility of disproportionately affecting law-abiding citizens. Unlike the restrictions on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, the seven-round limit cannot survive intermediate scrutiny. It stretches the bounds of this Court’s deference to the predictive judgments of the legislature to suppose that those intent on doing harm (whom, of course, the Act is aimed to stop) will load their weapon with only the permitted seven rounds. In this sense, the provision is not “substantially related” to the important government interest in public safety and crime prevention."
But the bulk of the legislation survived the judicial test.
Skretny ruled, "The Court finds that the challenged provisions of the SAFE Act, including the Act’s definition and regulation of assault weapons and its ban on high-capacity magazines, further the state’s important interest in public safety and do not impermissibly infringe on Plaintiff’s Second Amendment rights.”