Faced with mounting criticism from gun owners, the Cuomo administration is dispatching high-ranking state police officials to various locations across the state to explain the particulars of a new law that redefines some firearms as assault weapons and prohibits their sale.
The new law, dubbed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as “the SAFE Act,” has come under criticism from the state Sheriffs Association as well as from gun groups.
The sheriffs — who are independently elected public officials — argue that the new law strips people of the right to own firearms that have never before been classified as assault weapons. They also argue that a provision of the new law that limits ammunition magazine capacities fails to enhance public safety.
In a lengthy statement on the new law, which is now posted on the Otsego County Sheriff’s department’s website, the organization takes exception to the manner in which the legislation was enacted in Albany — without being first vetted by police groups.
“Unfortunately the process used in adoption of this act did not permit the mature development of the arguments on either side of the debate, and thus many of the stakeholders in this important issue are left feeling ignored by their government,’” the Sheriffs Association said.
Darcy Wells, a state police spokeswoman, said the upcoming public workshops on the new law are designed to answer questions it has spawned.
“The whole purpose is to make it easier for the public to understand the rules of the New York state SAFE Act,” she said. “It’s to break down the law and to get people’s questions answered.”
Asked why the sheriffs did not get to review a law they will now have to help administer before it was implemented, Wells said: “That will have to come out of the governor’s office. We have to enforce the laws, so we’re trying to help people understand them and explain how it affects them.”
Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr. said the state has largely left sheriffs in the dark on what they are expected to do to enforce the new law. He also said the new limits on the number of rounds that can be placed in magazines and the new definitions for what constitutes an assault weapon will not make New York safer from outlaws who have guns.
“The law-abiding citizen is the one paying the price,” he said.
Peter Kehoe, the executive director of the Sheriffs Association, said the new law failed to exempt law enforcement from the provision restricting the number of rounds in a magazine to seven. He said Cuomo and lawmakers recognize there are defects in the new law, as it applies to active and retired police officers, and it is expected they will modify the statute.
So far, state police have not announced any SAFE Act workshops for Otsego, Chenango, Delaware or Schoharie counties.