Nojay Says Safe Act Registration Will Be Ignored
December 30, 2013
By Kyle Hughes
ALBANY, N.Y. – New York has one of the toughest gun registration laws in the nation, but there are already signs that one of the new SAFE Act’s most controversial sections may only be lightly enforced when it takes effect this spring.
“People know that registration leads to confiscation,” Jacob Rieper, a spokesman for the NYS Rifle and Pistol Association, referring to the portion of the law that requires anyone possessing a military style assault rifle on January 15 register it by April 15.
Failure to do so is a misdemeanor. But Rieper and other gun-rights advocates predict that many owners will run the risk, which may not be much of a gamble if their belief holds true that local police, sheriffs and the State Police will not go out of their way to aggressively enforce the law.
“The rank and file troopers don’t want anything to do with it,” Assemblyman Bill Nojay (R-Pittsford) said Monday. “I don’t know of a single sheriff upstate who is going to enforce it.”
“If you don’t have the troopers and you don’t have the sheriffs, who have you got? You’ve got Andrew Cuomo pounding on the table in Albany,” Nojay said.
Nojay said estimates of the military-style rifles in private ownership in New York range from hundreds of thousands, according to the State Police, to up to 1 million. He predicted compliance with registration would be in the 10 percent range, limited to holders of federal firearms licenses, firearms instructors, or other high profile gun owners. He said the SAFE Act provisions on registration will be ignored the same way the 55 mph Interstate speed limit and Prohibition was ignored by New Yorkers in years past.
“I know a few hundred of these (gun owners),” Nojay added. “I don’t know of any of them that are going to be registered, so go figure.”
In the year since Cuomo pushed the bill through the Legislature on the first day of the 2013 session, the Safe Act has engendered public opposition and calls to ignore the registration mandate. While most of the opposition has been in rural counties, yard signs have popped up as well as homeland signs along roads and the Adirondack Northway with a message in capital letters: “DO NOT COMPLY.”
In Schoharie County, a rural area west of Albany, county legislators passed a resolution December 20 asking the state to keep the county’s official seal off any websites or publications about the SAFE Act. The county notified state officials in March that no money would be allocated for local enforcement of the new law.
A Schoharie official is organizing a protest on January 11 at noon, when he asks everyone with a gun in the county to show their opposition to the SAFE Act by firing off one round in a safe manner.
County legislatures in Rensselaer and Niagara counties have also passed resolutions about non-use of their official seals in SAFE Act materials. In Erie County, retired state trooper turned Sheriff Timothy B. Howard’s declaration “I won’t enforce it” was credited with elected him to a third term in November.
Gun rights groups say State Police refusal to release statistics on gun registrations suggests that the new law is being ignored.
State Police said Monday the FOIL requests for the records will not be granted because registration information is part of a confidential database exempt from disclosure. A State Police spokesperson had no comment when responding to submitted written questions about whether there was any concern about non-compliance with registration, or how registration was going so far.
Against that backdrop, some activists are planning community forums in January and February on how to evade the registration mandate.
“The refusal of the state to release the registration figures in recent months, even after several FOIL requests, makes it seem very clear the overall number of registrants is low,” the gun rights group NY2A wrote on its website in December. “An early figure that circulated on the Internet in June put the registration tally at less than 400. At a recent gathering of current and retired state police officers, the figure of 2,800 was given … Given the fact we are in the eighth month of possible registration the compliance rate is clearly pitifully low. Good!”
Gun rights advocates are in federal court in Buffalo to overturn the law. Rieper said that the judge has indicated he will rule based on court filings rather than oral arguments, and was cognizant of the looming registration deadline.