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Court refuses to block tougher NY gun law

ALBANY -- A midlevel state court yesterday rejected claims that New York's new gun law violates the state constitution because it was passed too quickly and restricts the rights of a citizen militia.

The Appellate Division upheld a judge's ruling that state law generally prohibits court review of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's justification for pushing the bill quickly through the legislature on Jan. 15, instead of waiting the three days usually required.

Cuomo used a "message of necessity" to skirt the waiting period, saying some guns and high-capacity magazines are so dangerous they needed to be restricted as soon as possible.

Justice Karen Peters wrote that the constitutional requirement that printed bills are on lawmakers' desks at least three days before final passage "may be circumvented" when the governor certifies "the facts which in his or her opinion necessitate an immediate vote."

Citing 2005 case law from the Court of Appeals, Peters wrote that the judiciary has to defer to the governor on whether those facts are sufficient to justify speedy passage, while the legislature is in position to reject them and vote no or not vote at all. "So long as some facts are stated, a court may not intervene," she wrote.

Robert Schulz, who sued with more than 1,000 other plaintiffs, claimed Cuomo's emergency justification was false and that 52 of the law's 56 provisions wouldn't take effect for weeks or months. The law immediately banned high-capacity magazines and tightened the definition of illegal "assault weapons" that cannot be sold in New York.

Schulz lost his bid yesterday for a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement, but said the case now goes back to the trial court to rule on the merits of the arguments. He expects the same result, but intends to pursue it all the way to the Court of Appeals. "They got it wrong," Schulz said of the Appellate Division.

The 2005 case law was about the adequacy of the facts, not their number as the midlevel court seemed to think, he said.Peters also rejected the argument that the law's implications for the constitutionally protected right to bear arms require a different standard for reviewing how the law was passed.

Justices John Lahtinen, Leslie Stein and John Egan Jr. concurred.

The law has since required federal background checks for private gun sales in New York and will require owners of an estimated 1 million semi-automatic guns now banned from New York sales to register them by next April 15.

A separate lawsuit by the New York affiliate of the National Rifle Association is pending in federal court in Buffalo.

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