NY Is Awash With Illegal Guns From Trigger-Happy States

New York is awash in illegal firearms, the vast majority of which flow in from out of state, a new report from the attorney general reveals in grim detail.

Law enforcement recovered 52,915 guns used in crimes between 2010 and 2015. Of the handguns collected, nearly 90 percent were purchased outside New York, the report says. The rest were transported in through Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia, states that enjoy significantly more relaxed gun laws than New York.

“The data makes one thing abundantly clear: New York’s strong gun laws are being undermined at every turn by lax laws in other states,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “Even as we work to make our streets safer, the illegal guns most often used in violent crimes continue to pour into our state.”

The goal of the report is to push the federal government to strengthen gun laws across state lines, but the attorney general’s office is facing a familiar uphill battle. In 2013, the Senate voted down Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposed legislation that would, among other things, make gun trafficking a federal crime. That legislation was introduced in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings and included a passel of other restrictions, like expanding background checks for gun buyers and banning assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines. The NRA and its sycophants, whose hackles were already raised by the imagined threat of a national gun ban, voted to kill the entire package.

Last year, Gillibrand reintroduced legislation aimed at prosecuting gun traffickers with the Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking & Crime Prevention Act, which includes many of the same provisions as the 2013 attempt without some of its more controversial baggage. A spokesperson with Gillibrand’s office told the Voice that the legislation, co-sponsored with Illinois senator Mark Kirk, is currently under consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Month after month, year after year, illegal guns tear apart communities across New York and our country and yet there is not a single federal law defining gun trafficking as a crime — enough is enough,” Gillibrand said in a press release at the time.

Another option is to enact even harsher penalties for gun trafficking in New York, which is precisely the goal of the Gun Kingpin bill, introduced earlier this year by State Senator Jeff Klein and Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. The proposed measure would nail traffickers with more serious felonies, with offenders facing fifteen years to life in prison.

The new report also offers several recommendations on both the state and federal levels, like closing the gaping, indefensible gun show loophole, requiring handgun licenses, and working to find novel ways of tracing the source of guns entering New York.


Setting His Sights on the NRA: Bob Greenwald’s New Documentary Takes On His Biggest Quarry Yet

Filmmaker Robert Greenwald is no stranger to taking on conservative billionaires and big corporations, nor to the inevitable attacks that come with this kind of work. After he released Outfoxed, about Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, Bill O’Reilly called him a “fanatical leftist.” Koch Industries chose the term “fringe left-wing” for Koch Brothers Exposed. Walmart didn’t use the L-word, but settled for “propaganda” to criticize Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price.

Now the award-winning Greenwald, 72, who has directed or produced some 65 projects for film and TV over the course of a forty-year career, is setting his sights on perhaps his biggest adversary yet: the gun industry. He sat down with the Voice over breakfast last week to talk about Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA, his latest documentary.

“When we did Outfoxed, no one was taking on Fox,” says Greenwald, who’s bright-faced and sturdy, with a boundless energy. “When we started Koch Brothers, no one was taking on the Koch brothers. I decided nearly two years ago that no one had taken on the NRA or the gun companies directly in terms of film.”

Making a Killing, which is premiering around the country this week, illustrates how the billion-dollar gun industry affects the lives of everyday Americans. Along with personal stories, the documentary presents some startling statistics: that one person is killed with a gun every sixteen minutes in the U.S. and that every day, on average, eighty Americans die from gun violence.

The film’s five personal stories cover various forms of gun violence and the lives damaged or destroyed by it, from a suicide to an accidental death to the 2012 mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, that left twelve dead and seventy injured. One woman describes being shot by her ex-husband in front of her then three-year-old son. We hear of a Chicago boy who was shot on the steps of a church. Another mother recalls how her son, thirteen, was unintentionally killed by a friend playing with an unlocked shotgun.

“It’s not enough to tell sad stories,” Greenwald says. “We need to show this mother’s pain, that her child is dead as a direct result of the NRA and the gun companies spending money to stop lockup laws that would’ve saved the child’s life.”

Greenwald, who now lives in Los Angeles, has a gentlemanly and urbane disposition, but he’s also streetwise — which he attributes to having started life on 168th Street. “You can take the boy out of New York, but you can’t take New York outta the boy,” he says. “Growing up in Washington Heights, it was a pretty tough area. I built street character pretty quickly, and it serves me well. I’ve developed a thick skin. It’s never fun when you’re attacked, but whether it’s the Kochs or Walmart or the NRA, you expect to take some blows.”

Brave New Films, Greenwald’s company, began in 2004 as a nonprofit and is funded through grants from various foundations, along with individual donors. Making a Killing‘s election-year release is a deliberate move, an attempt to push the public to protest the NRA and to pressure politicians to support stricter gun regulations. An inventive and ambitious distribution campaign intends to spread viewership as wide as possible — the doc will be shown for free everywhere from churches to hospitals to colleges.

Mayor Bill de Blasio will offer an introduction to a New York screening on Wednesday at the Downtown Community Television Center on Lafayette Street in Chinatown. First lady Chirlane McCray will be on hand too. “We did something with the mayor a year and a half ago on hedge funds,” Greenwald says. “And when I started on this, I emailed him and said, ‘Would you be interested?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely.'”

In Iraq for Sale (2006), Greenwald used the election cycle to “talk about war profiteering.” “With the NRA film,” he says, “the goal is the same: to try to get candidates, elected officials, to talk about the fact that you are less safe and I am less safe because the NRA and the gun companies are profiting.” His hope is that each screening will produce its own small army of people angry enough to take action.

“It’s not enough that people see the movie,” Greenwald says. “The movie is a complete failure if people don’t do something. Our goal is, of those 1,000 screenings, we get 100,000 people doing something — a letter, a phone call, joining an existing movement. That will all happen through Labor Day. We’re going to meet it.

“With action comes change. And I hope this film will prompt change. I think it will.”



How Do Theaters Plan to Handle Security for the ‘Star Wars’ Opening Weekend?

When a Village Voice film critic attended a recent press screening of the Will Ferrell–Mark Wahlberg buddy comedy Daddy’s Home at the Regal E-Walk theater in Times Square, he was asked to open his bag so it could be checked. The attendant was looking not just for the usual innocuous stuff — say, food or drink brought in from outside. He was also on the lookout for dangerous items — like a gun, or a bomb.

In August, Regal Cinemas, the nation’s largest movie theater chain, began checking bags and changed its admittance procedures amid growing fears of violent attacks and mass shootings. And indeed, over the last few years there’s been a rash of attacks targeting multiplexes. There was the shooting last summer during a screening of the Amy Schumer comedy Trainwreck that left three dead at the Grand 16 theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. In August, a man armed with a hatchet and a pellet gun attacked an audience at a theater in Nashville before being shot and killed by police. In 2012, orange-haired gunman James Holmes opened fire at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, killing twelve and injuring several others. Holmes was sentenced to twelve life terms (plus 3,318 additional years) earlier this year.

“Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America,” a statement announces on the Regal Entertainment Group’s website. Regal’s corporate offices did not respond to requests for comment, but the company “wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theaters,” according to its website. “In that regard, as a general rule all backpacks, packages, and large bags of any kind are subject to inspection.”

The company operates ten theaters in New York City, including in Times Square and Union Square, and owns more than five hundred and sixty theaters nationwide.

Other local theaters have taken precautions by implementing bag-check policies and posting notices on their front doors. Matthew Gualco, an employee at Cobble Hill Cinemas in Brooklyn, says the theater has notices taped on the front door and displayed on a screen informing guests that bags will be searched. When asked if he and others who work at the theater are concerned about possible violence, he says, “Not really. It is what it is. We’ll continue to check bags, but we can’t dig through people’s belongings looking for a gun.”

In Hollywood, the long-awaited premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Monday featured security that eclipsed that for the Academy Awards. Streets were shut down, and seventy police officers were on hand. Star Wars will open in New York on Friday. The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment regarding increased security measures at movie theaters in the city.

But film-industry watchers say not to expect the fear of attacks, or the hassle of increased security, to keep fans away.

“Nothing will keep a true Star Wars fan from seeing their beloved movie this weekend, and I think the numbers will show that,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst and well-known box office expert at Rentrak, a media research company.

And there’s nothing in the numbers to indicate people are planning to stay away from seeing the seventh film in the franchise. The movie has already sold more than $50 million in advance ticket sales.

“It’ll be a sad day when people won’t go see a movie because they’re afraid,” adds Dergarabedian.

New Yorkers interviewed Monday night mostly tended to agree.

“I work on Wall Street,” says Matt Porter, 36, outside the AMC theater at 84th and Broadway. “Should I be scared to go to my office every day because of what happened near me on 9-11?”

K.C. Hergott and Leann Porter, who were buying tickets for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, say they won’t be deterred from going to the movies for fear of a shooting or attack. “In fact, we were just talking about seeing Star Wars this week,” says Hergott.

But not all moviegoers are so comfortable. After an employee at the 84th Street AMC location told the Voice they have not been ordered to check bags, Manhattan resident Yvonne Naz, who was waiting to see the film Creed, said it was “a little disturbing” that the city’s largest theater chain is not adding that element of security. (Representatives from AMC Theaters have yet to return calls from the Voice.)

Naz noted that New Yorkers have a different mindset from that of residents of other cities.

“Manhattan is the target of everything,” she said. “So it’s in the back of the mind that something can always happen here. Whatever happens happens.”


In Wake of Mass Shootings, ‘Scared’ New Yorkers Apply in Droves for Handgun Permits

In response to the mass shootings in San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, and Paris, gun merchants in and around New York City say, residents are flocking to stores like never before in search of firearms.

Nationally, President Barack Obama recently reiterated his call for stricter gun-control laws. Closer to home, in Connecticut, Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced a plan to prevent prospective buyers from purchasing a gun if they are on a federal terrorism watch list. New York State already has some of the strictest gun control legislation in the nation, including statewide bans on assault weapons, but store owners and license specialists say people are lining up to buy their first handguns as a means of protection.

“I can definitely say there’s a lot more inquiries on how to get handgun permits,” says Arnold Martin of Pistol License Specialists of New York, a handgun license consulting firm near Madison Square Park. “Since the recent attacks, a lot more people have been calling to ask about licenses.”

Store owners themselves are reporting an increase in sales as well — especially among first-time buyers. Darren Leung, of Westside Rifle and Pistol Range in Chelsea, says his shop is always busy, but recently he’s gone from selling about twenty handguns a month to between thirty and forty. “But it’s all predicated upon first getting a license,” he says.

Outside of the city, “We’ve noticed quite an increase in gun sales in the last three weeks or so – a lot of first-time buyers,” says A.J. Greene of Coliseum Gun Traders, a store in suburban Uniondale in Nassau County. “People don’t feel confident being unarmed in the current situation, with all the shootings.”

In the Westchester County town of Mount Vernon, “It’s getting busier and busier,” says Michael Timlin at RT Smoke & Gun Shop. “Every time you hear of more regulations on the local, state, or federal level, on top of the terrorist incidents, there’s always a spike.”

In New York State, a permit is required to own a handgun, but not a shotgun or rifle. If someone passes the required NYPD background check, approval is relatively easy. In the city, applicants must fill out a seventeen-page form in person, pay $340 for a three-year permit, and fork over $89.75 to be fingerprinted. Then they must be interviewed by the police. In 2010, the New York Times sued the NYPD for the department’s entire database of gun permit holders and their addresses. The paper then reported in 2011 that 41,164 handguns were registered in the city.

According to the Times‘ article, of those licensed to have handguns, nearly 4,000 have a concealed-carry permit, which Leung calls the “holy grail” of handgun licenses.

“The chances of you getting robbed are better than you getting that carry permit,” he says. “There’s so much more paperwork involved, you have to get vetted a lot more.”

The NYPD’s licensing division, which awards all gun permits in New York City, did not immediately return calls from the Voice. But according to FBI data, on average, over the first nine months of 2015, New York State conducted 25,314 firearm background checks per month on prospective gun buyers. In October 33,282 background checks were conducted. The number spiked again in November, to 36,421.

In New York City, Martin says, a number of people trying to get licenses are being denied because they don’t qualify. Some potential customers cannot pass the background check because they have criminal records.

“The city doesn’t give out licenses like they’re giving out ice cream cones, which is why we’re here to help our clients get through the maze of paperwork,” Martin says. His company, which charges $495 for its services, offers a “money-back guarantee if you don’t get approved, but our success rate for approvals is almost 100 percent.”

Martin’s company assists with all aspects, including coaching and tutoring clients on how to pass the NYPD interview. Clients are also offered a complimentary one-year membership to a gun range.

Considering the time and money it takes to get a permit, being a gun-owner in New York City can be an expensive proposition. Between the permit, the cost of a weapon, and a shooting-range membership, “you’re looking at $1,500,” says Leung of the Chelsea gun shop. “And that’s being conservative.” Most handguns, Leung says, can run between $500 and $3,000.

But gun dealers say customers are willing to pay to feel safer.

“We talk to customers and they fear the government can’t protect them,” Leung adds. “The fear is there. It all comes down to two words: ‘I’m scared.’ “


Gun Rights Advocates Attack Obama’s ‘Politicizing’ of Charleston Shooting

President Barack Obama today decried the deaths of nine people at a prayer meeting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, which caused gun rights advocates, already filling the social Web with preemptive defenses of the Second Amendment via the popular #2A hashtag, to go off.

Here’s what Obama said, in a statement at the White House:

“We as a country need to acknowledge that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” said the president, as Vice President Joe Biden stood solemnly by his side.

“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.

“Now’s the time for mourning and for healing, but let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it’d be wrong for us not to acknowledge it, and at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it — and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.”

Roof's Facebook photo
Roof’s Facebook photo

Dylann Storm Roof, 21, entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church around 8 p.m. on Wednesday and opened fire on a prayer meeting. Authorities say the violence from Roof, who is white, was racially motivated. In his Facebook profile, he’s seen wearing a jacket “decorated with the flags of two former white supremacist regimes, in apartheid-era South Africa and in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe,” reports the Times.

Six women and three men were killed. Roof reportedly reloaded five times, according to a surviving witness.

The shooting has again brought up the heated debate about gun control and gun rights. Obama was immediately accused of pushing a political agenda by those pushing the opposite political agenda:

Twitter user Chana, whose bio states, “Here 4 politics,” replied to the White House with this. Another user has a remark similar to many:

Many, many people have taken up the argument that if those churchgoers brought guns to their prayer meeting, they could have quickly “eliminated the violent threat.” Here’s a representative tweet:

Many more take issue with Obama’s assertion that “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.” They point to the shootings at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, and other places around the world. Here’s one of many that mention Hebdo:

Speaking locally in Brooklyn today, Mayor Bill de Blasio didn’t mention guns in his remarks, but said he would send NYPD to some of the city’s historically black churches. He also focused on racism and mental health:

“I want everyone to know there’s no place in New York City for this kind of hatred, and that we, through the NYPD, have increased our resources directed at protecting African-American churches in this city as a precaution.” De Blasio went on to stress the need to be “more aggressive about dealing with the question of mental health, and de-stigmatizing it, and…discussing and taking the actions we need on mental health in this city and in this country.”


East Village Church Brings Gun Violence Against Children Into Focus for Holy Week

Reverend Winnie Varghese leans over a bamboo cross in the yard of St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, adjusting a T-shirt that hangs off the cross along with roughly 40 others, the clothes flapping in the cold wind. “Most people walk in and figure it out right away,” she says.

Each of the t-shirts has the name, age, and story of a child younger than 12 who was killed or injured by gunfire in the United States since last Easter. The crosses went up in the front yard of the church, which sits at the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 10th Street, yesterday, Palm Sunday. They will remain in the yard for the duration of Holy Week, which lasts until Easter, this coming Sunday.

Reverend Winnie Varghese
Reverend Winnie Varghese

Varghese, 42, and the members of her parish made the crosses out of bamboo and zip ties last year, the first time they decided to mark Holy Week in this fashion. “We’re a very political church, but we hadn’t done anything like this,” she says. “We have this yard that is very visible.” In 2014, the T-shirts represented the number of people killed by gunfire in New York State during the previous year. “Holy Week is about death,” Varghese explains. “A body and life that wasn’t valued.”

Since taking over as head reverend at St. Mark’s Church, Varghese, who writes a blog for the Huffington Post, has attracted parishioners to the church with her political gestures. In December, the church hung a banner on its south-facing portico — it remains there now — that reads “Black Lives Matter.”

Varghese says people have noticed the shirts, coming in and out of the front yard to take pictures. She said two police officers even came by and thanked her for the gesture, which makes sense to her — after all, police are usually the first on the scene when someone’s been shot.

On Tuesday morning, Varghese plans to hang a sign on the north-facing fence that surrounds the yard, which is also a very old graveyard. (The church dates back to 1799, and some of the graves — including that of Peter Stuyvesant — date back to the 1600s.) The sign will state that more than 700 children twelve and younger were killed or injured by people with guns in the United States since last Easter.

“I’m from Texas,” Varghese says. “In my mind, as a priest, all you need is that number: 700. How can it not be that something’s gone horribly wrong? So many of them were domestic violence, so many murder-suicides.” According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in situations of domestic violence than for self-defense.

By Tuesday, Varghese hopes to have around 75 T-shirts up, with the help of her parishioners. As she adjusts the bamboo crosses, an older woman approaches her in the yard to tell her that the T-shirts are “wonderful.”

“I can’t help but notice all these kids are from states that are rah-rah guns,” the woman says. “This is very moving. Thank you very much for doing this.”

The church is not asking for donations or planning any demonstrations. Varghese explains, “It’s just public witness.”


You’ll Never Guess What TSA Inspectors Confiscated at NYC Airports in 2014

From expandable batons and “sword canes” to gun parts and a really terrifying-looking sickle, New York and New Jersey’s Transportation Security Administration inspectors have made some interesting finds over the past year. While, thankfully, none of the region’s three major airports are listed on the TSA’s list of top airports for gun seizures, travelers in the area still managed to keep inspectors busy.

The TSA found a record 2,212 firearms in travelers’ bags in 2014 — a 22 percent increase from 2013. But New York’s two main airports — John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia — bucked the national trend and actually saw their numbers drop over the same period. At JFK, five firearms were found in 2014, as opposed to ten in 2013. And LaGuardia saw a drop from four to two. But JFK did get a shout-out from the TSA for some of its other seizures from the past year:

In September, a bag containing 33 pounds of marijuana, as well as disassembled handguns and ammunition (artfully hidden in a box of baby wipes), was discovered.

That same month, a sword cane was also found at JFK (similar to the one shown below, recovered at the Omaha Eppley Airfield).

In December, a disassembled .22 caliber firearm was found in a carry-on bag with parts neatly concealed in a PlayStation 2 game console; other components were tucked alongside a camera tripod in the bag.

And in June, three travelers had expandable batons discovered in their bags..

While federal law does not prohibit licensed gun owners from transporting legally obtained firearms across state lines, there is no consistent guideline on interstate firearm transportation. And as TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein points out, “New York has some of the strictest weapons laws in the nation.”

When guns are found on travelers, TSA officers are required to notify police officers working at airports. The officers then interrogate passengers to determine if their guns are licensed — and whether or not the travelers should be arrested.

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Manhattan Double Homicide Caught on Tape

The NYPD is seeking the public’s help to solve a double homicide in Manhattan early Sunday morning. The shooting took place on Broadway near 151 St. in Harlem.

At almost three a.m., police responded to an emergency call and found a 21-year-old man with a bullet wound in the neck, and a 29-year-old who had been shot in the back. The first victim was pronounced dead on the scene, and the other died at a nearby hospital. Police didn’t release the names of the victims or a description.

The suspect was described as a Hispanic male in a gray hooded sweatshirt, a black t-shirt, camo shorts and white sneakers.

Anyone with information should call 800-577-TIPS. You can also send tips to the CrimeStoppers website, at or send a text to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577


Pro-Gun Groups Are So Very Annoyed at Jerome Hauer, Cuomo Official Who Reportedly Used His Gun as a Laser Pointer

The Cuomo administration has a serious, potentially deadly laser pointer shortage. That’s the only way to explain a report from the Albany Times-Union that Jerome Hauer, the state’s commissioner of Homeland Security & Emergency Services, used the the laser sight on his handgun as a pointer during a presentation in October, panicking a bunch of foreign delegates from countries where guns are only used for civilized things like shooting people.

Anonymous state officials told the newspaper they’d witnessed the incident, which they said happened during a presentation to a foreign delegation at the State Police Headquarters. According to the unnamed officials, the paper adds, “three Swedish emergency managers in the delegation were rattled when the gun’s laser tracked across one of their heads before Hauer found the map of New York, at which he wanted to point.”

Hauer had a stroke a few years ago and “can be unsteady,” the Times-Union adds. Also, he isn’t legally allowed to carry a firearm at work. It’s a violation of the state’s Public Facilities Law. What a great, reassuring story, right?

When approached by the newspaper about the alleged incident, Hauer said only, “You have bad sources.” His communications officer, Peter Cutler, also told the paper he would check into the incident, but couldn’t come up with anything more specific than “Your guess is as good as mine,” “I don’t have any information on that,” and, most substantively, “I’ve heard rumors.” He also said of his boss, “I don’t even know if he carries a weapon,” which is odd, since the Times-Union previously wrote about Hauer’s habit of carrying a handgun to work. (According to this latest report, it’s a 9-millimeter Glock.)

Hauer has never denied carrying a handgun to work, suggesting to the Times-Union reporter James Odato that he Google Hauer’s name to find out why he finds it necessary to do so. Hauer is indeed very unpopular on the Internet; he’s at the center of a number of bizarre September 11 conspiracy theories. However, it’s not clear if stories like this one , referring to him as a “suspect,” are the reason he feels the need to come to work armed. According to his official bio, he also served as a senior adviser to the Secretary for National Security and Emergency Management on September 11, and again during the country’s anthrax scare, both of which might also make you rather paranoid.

But even people who believe you should be able to carry your gun to the grocery store, the Starbucks, and your kid’s preschool music class are feeling frustrated with Hauer. As the story went viral yesterday, a number of pro-gun groups and websites lit up with outrage. (Not, um, literally). Part of that anger is because Hauer ignored every basic firearm safety protocol: Act like a gun is always loaded. Don’t point it at anything you don’t want to die or explode. No frightening the Swedes. And if you’re really hurting for a laser pointer, take the sight off the gun, and then put the gun away.

But the other issue for pro-gun groups is Hauer’s boss, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who as you probably recall passed a sweeping gun law this time last year, which, among other things, required universal background checks for would-be gun buyers and made magazines that hold more than seven rounds illegal.

And yet a member of his administration is apparently stumbling into work and frightening foreigners, which strikes gun enthusiasts as rather unfair. The outrage is strong on message boards like Long Island Firearms, as well as a forum for AR-15 enthusiasts, where Hauer is being referred to as an “IDIOT Cuomo appointee.” And gun review site The Truth About Guns comments, not inaccurately, “Surely Empire Staters are sleeping more soundly now, secure in the knowledge that it’s much more likely that only highly trained, qualified individuals like Mr. Hauer will be handling dangerous tools like firearms.”

Meanwhile, the website Bearing Arms adds, “Your handgun is not the appropriate tool to use as a laser pointer. A moderately intelligent child grasps that. So perhaps a child is the appropriate person to take over as Andrew Cuomo’s director of homeland security.”

Shh. You hear that? It’s the sound of both sides of America’s gun debate actually agreeing on something.


NY’s Assault Weapons Ban Is Constitutional But Ammo Restriction Is Not, Federal Judge Rules

Three weeks after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. last December, New York was the first state to pass stricter gun laws. A year later–with the political battle over gun control faded from national public discourse–a federal judge has upheld the majority of the state’s legislation, ruling that the expanded assault weapons ban is constitutional but striking down a provision prohibiting magazines that hold more than seven rounds.

The increased “regulation of assault weapons and its ban on high-capacity magazines,” Judge William Skretny, of U.S. District Court in Buffalo, ruled Tuesday, “further the state’s important interest in public safety and do not impermissibly infringe on… Second Amendment rights”

The section of the bill that reduced a magazine’s legal capacity from 10 rounds to seven, however, is “an arbitrary restriction” and therefore unconstitutional, Skretny stated.

The case stemmed from the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the SAFE Act, which passed through the state legislature in mid-January.

The bill, championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, broadened the definition of “assault weapon” to include any firearm that had one “military-style features,” instead of two. It strengthened existing laws aimed at keeping guns from mentally ill people, increased the penalties for illegal gun use, required the gun owners re-new their permits every five years, and made New York the first state to run instant background checks on anybody buying ammunition.

It also would have made this the first state to prohibit magazines holding more than seven rounds. This aspect of the law, though, had been flawed from the start, when gun owners pointed out that seven-round magazines were much harder to find than then ten-round variety. This led to Cuomo to announce, somewhat awkwardly, that legislators would adjust the law: you could buy 10-round magazines but you just couldn’t put more than seven bullets in them. Skretny’s decision erases that mess.

The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association will probably appeal, and the case may reach the Supreme Court. While the nation’s highest court ruled, in 2008, that individuals–and not just militias–have the right to own firearms, the body has not yet heard a case that challenged the breadth of the Second Amendment: to what extend the government can limit what types of guns and ammunition are legal.