17 January 2013

NY's gun control Franken-law, explained (Part One)

As you all probably know by now, Governor Andy is coming for your guns and the great state of New York, as we know and love it, is about to unravel. Or, New York is leading the way to bringing a measure of sanity to the unwashed redneck masses. It's gotta be one or the other, based on what I gather from my Facebook feed.*1

But what does the recently enacted SAFE Act actually do? To find out, I took the drastic step of, you know, reading the actual law. All 36 pages of it. And if you are thinking this is some unified legislative proposal, cut from whole cloth to (choose one) 1) strip New Yorkers of their sacred right to bear arms or 2) lead us to the promised land where no child is ever injured by a firearm, think again. The SAFE Act is a collection of amendments, a smattering of tweaks that covers the waterfront, from the penal law to the surrogate's court practice act.

There are so many amendments, in fact, that I am breaking down the break-down into sections. In the first, I'll answer the question that seems to be first and fore-most in the minds of my highly scientific sample of Facebook friends:

So are they coming for my guns, or what?

The answer: it depends on how bad-ass your guns are. We'll take it category by category over the next few days, starting with . . .


First, some context. If you only read the news coverage of the SAFE Act, you would think that New York just enacted a brand new "assaults weapon" ban. And you'd be wrong. The old law included a ban on "assault" weapons, penalizing the possession of any weapon that met the definition of an "assault weapon" as a felony. The SAFE Act leaves the ban on the books, but tightens up the definition of an "assault weapon."

Under the old law, a weapon qualified as an assault weapon if is a was semi-auto, capable of accepting a detachable magazine, and had any two of the following characteristics: a folding or telescopic stock; a pistol grip; a thumbhole stock; a second handgrip for non-trigger hand; a bayonet mount; a flash suppressor, muzzle break, muzzle compensator, or threaded barrel to accommodate flash suppressor / silencer; or a grenade launcher.*2

Yes, I know what you're thinking, and yes: under the old law, you could have an Ak-47 with attached grenade launcher, so long as it had none of the other verboten characteristics. Maybe a little pointless given grenades are illegal to possess under both the old law and new, but I can think of worse ways to launch a potato.

Sadly, under the SAFE Act, a weapon qualifies as an "assault weapon" if it includes just one of the listed characteristics. Meaning that, yes, for those people who currently legally own a semi-automatic rifle with just a pistol grip, or a measly threaded barrel, or just one of any of the other characteristics, then yeah: it is now a felony to possess that gun in New York.


*1 If you want your political vitriol, I'm afraid you will need to go elsewhere. I'm sticking to the facts of the new law, and the potential criminal implications for gun owners in New York.

*2 There are similar lists for semi-auto handguns and semi-auto shotguns. These are not even the coolest lists of banned weapons in the Penal Law. That would be Penal Law 265.01[1], that makes it a misdemeanor to possess an "electronic dart gun, electronic stun gun, gravity knife, switchblade knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, plastic knuckles, metal knuckles, chuka stick, sand bag, sandclub, wrist-brace type slingshot*3 or slungshot, shirken or 'Kung Fu star." This is clearly why New York is currently experiencing such an extreme shortage of trained ninjas.

*3 I totally had a "wrist-brace type slingshot" when I was a kid. I still count the fact that my brother and I made it to adulthood with all eyes accounted for and functioning as an act of largely undeserved divine intervention.

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