Gun rights groups ask court to stop enforcement
ALBANY – Gun rights advocates asked a federal judge to block New York authorities from enforcing new bullet limits for magazines and a redefinition of assault weapons that cannot be legally bought or sold in the state.
The New York affiliate of the National Rifle Association, sportsmen’s groups, firearms businesses and individual gun owners said the new statute is unconstitutional, because it prohibits citizens from keeping commonly used firearms for home defense and other lawful purposes.
They hope Judge William Skretny in Buffalo will hold a hearing within the next three weeks and then issue the preliminary injunction, attorney Brian Stapleton said Tuesday.
“Our members want it quick,” he said. “People are upset about this.”
Defending the state, Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Ahlstrom wrote in court papers that the claims have no merit. He noted the motion was filed late Monday, three months after the law passed, undercutting any argument of “perceived imminent harm.”
Ahlstrom asked for 60 days to respond to the injunction request, instead of an expedited schedule he said would deprive government lawyers of adequate time to submit papers “in defense of this landmark statute.
“The one-sided presentation proposed by plaintiffs is no orderly way to litigate important constitutional issues or to resolve a motion that seeks to enjoin duly enacted state legislation” Ahlstrom wrote.
New York’s new gun restrictions, the first in the nation passed following December’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, limit state gun owners to no more than seven bullets in magazines, except at competitions or firing ranges. That provision took effect Monday.
The preliminary injunction would stop its enforcement, as well as the provision banning all magazines with capacity for more than 10 bullets, including older magazines that had been grandfathered in under the previous law.
The toughest part of the new statute – banning in-state sales of guns newly classified as assault weapons – immediately took effect Jan. 15. The law says that a firearm can be classified as an assault weapon if it has a single military-style feature, such as a pistol grip on semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines. Other listed features include a folding or thumbhole stock, bayonet mount, flash suppressor, or second protruding grip held by the non-trigger hand.
Under the law, New Yorkers who own such guns can keep them but must register them by April 15, 2014. That registration began Monday.
The preliminary motion also targets enforcement of that definition, arguing enforcement should be blocked because the groups’ members would otherwise suffer “irreparable harm” and because they are likely to win the constitutional argument.
Cuomo pushed through the law, calling its provisions common sense responses to limit gun violence. It followed by one month the Connecticut shootings of 20 schoolchildren and six educators. Police said the troubled 20-year-old gunman used a semi-automatic rifle and 30-round magazines.