Buyer beware on ‘SAFE compliant’ guns

Gun parts manufacturers and gun enthusiasts have been attempting to comply with the NY-SAFE Act by altering the features of their AR-15-style weapons. Although the practice may be legal, confusion over what complies with the law may result in court battles.

Christopher Keniston, a senior investigator with the New York State Police, said gun buyers should do their homework before they purchase a gun that claims to be NY-SAFE compliant.

“It’s a big gray area,” Keniston said. “Be careful when you’re operating in a gray area.”

Some of the weapon features banned by the law are pistol grips, folding stocks, bayonet lugs and flash suppressors.

Keniston said he has seen modifications he believes are NY-SAFE compliant and others that in his opinion are not. He added that just because a police lawyer or an investigator believes an alteration made to a gun is legal does not mean a judge will come to the same conclusion. Currently there is not much case law available to point in one direction or the other.

“The law is so new that these different manufacturers are being creative (with new designs).” Keniston said. “My guess is, over the year, arrests will be made.”

Gun shops have been stocking their shelves with the altered weapons, and gun owners want to get their hands on them. In Saranac Lake, Blue Line Sports, which sold the popular AR-15 before the SAFE Act took effect, is considering purchasing compliant weapon parts.

Thordsen Customs, a gun manufacturer in California, is having a hard time keeping their products on the shelves.

“Attention New York Dealers: Due to extremely high volume of new dealer inquiries. We are unable to accept any more new dealers at this time. Please be patient, as we increase our staff and output capacity to meet the current demand.” Thordsen Customs wrote on its website.

The owner of the company, Alan Thordsen, said the original designs for NY-SAFE-compliant gun stocks were intended for California customers, but after the NY-SAFE Act passed, demand was created in New York, too.

“We have quite a few customers in New York.” Thorsden said.

They sell a FRS-15 rifle stock package for $144 that can be attached to AR-15 style weapons. The company has consulted with lawyers and believes the stocks they sell are legal under New York law.

“We have done our due diligence beyond anything I would consider reasonable,” Thordsen said.

He said there was some confusion about his product on the Internet after an article published by the Albany Times Union newspaper.

“The Times Union had a picture with my stock, but the article is not about our stock,” he said. “When the reporters came to his shop they didn’t use any of the interview they got from him, just the picture.”

The photo of Rich Sehlmeyer at The Gun Shop in Lake Luzerne was widely circulated across the Internet on blogs and gun forums. The company mentioned in the article is H&H Firearms from Lackawanna.

There is a current deadline to register assault weapons with the State Police by April 15. If you have questions about whether your gun is SAFE Act compliant, you can call the state hotline 1-855-LAW-GUNS.