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Fed court rules SAFE Act is constitutional

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at a news

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at a news conference at his Manhattan office on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015. Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY - A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's SAFE Act gun control law that bans assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines doesn't violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision striking down the SAFE Act's seven-bullet limit for ammunition clips. The court found the state failed to prove how limiting a firearm to seven bullets improved safety.

Cuomo has argued the seven-bullet limit would allow for police or others to stop a gunman in a public shooting as the shooter reloaded.

But that provision in the 2013 law has never been enacted because seven-bullet clips aren't widely manufactured. However, the court ruling struck down Cuomo's fallback position that only seven bullets can be carried in a 10-bullet clip.

The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We took a fundamental step forward to help end the stream of senseless killings by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill," Cuomo said in a statement.

Tom King, president of the Rifle and Pistol Association, said the SAFE Act is an unnecessary and ineffective "burden on our constitutional rights."

"Look at what's going on in Albany, in Schenectady, in Rochester, in New York City and in parts of Long Island," King said in an interview. "Violence is up dramatically and it's been two and a half years since the SAFE Act was introduced. So obviously the SAFE Act has had no impact on violence, particularly drug and gang violence."

The decision ruled on gun control measure in New York and Connecticut after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 first-graders and six adults dead.

The court said the Constitution contains "an individual right to possess and carry weapons," but "the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." The judges also found that the Constitution protects only weapons "in common use . . . for law purposes like self-defense."

The judges also reversed a lower court's challenge to the SAFE Act based on a spelling error. The law refers to a "muzzle break" as a device that helps make a firearm an assault weapon. But the term is "muzzle brake."


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