There were many parts of the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act that were poorly conceived.
One such part was the provision requiring people who owned so-called assault weapons to register them with the state. Statistics recently released have shown that about 45,000 such firearms have so far been registered.
The SAFE Act outlines the 10 features that make up an assault weapon. The law permits only those who owned these types of guns prior to its passage to keep them if they are properly registered. No one wishing to purchase a firearm with these features may do so now that the law has gone into effect.
It’s difficult imagining the rationale behind this provision. The law states that preownership of these weapons is legal, so officials should leave it at that. If they believe the law will effectively ban subsequent ownership of assault weapons, what’s the point in registration?
It’s widely suspected, however, that many assault weapons owners have not complied with this portion of the law. Some people have publicly declared that they won’t register their guns while most have simply not done so.
There are many criticisms to lodge at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the legislators who passed the SAFE Act, and we have on this page editorialized against it numerous times. But the reality is that it is the law, and picking which laws you decide to follow is fraught with problems.
Many opponents of the SAFE Act said it would turn law-abiding citizens into criminals, as if these citizens had no choice but to violate it. This is simply not true. The only thing that turns people into criminals is their refusal to adhere to laws that have been passed.
Critics of the SAFE Act lose the moral high ground when they don’t follow it. It’s a bad law, and many parts need revising. But it’s still the law, and you can’t remain a law-abiding citizen if you choose to ignore it.