B y Jaime Thomas
A year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the New York SAFE Act, the controversy and effects surrounding it have not died down.
Last Wednesday, which marked one year since the bill passed, was also an important deadline for both gun and business owners. New York state residents who own what the act classifies as an assault weapon—which can be determined by visiting the act’s website—should have either registered their firearm or sold it to a licensed dealer, or face legal ramifications.
Additionally, residents can no longer purchase ammunition online or anywhere other than through a licensed seller.
Locally, several sporting goods business owners are not happy with the new regulations and say the law will only serve to hurt the wrong people.
“Gov. Cuomo didn’t realize the wave he was creating. It’s just going to hurt law-abiding citizens. I don’t believe in it at all, period,” said Jami Whitney, owner of Whitney’s Hunting Supply in Granville.
And Roy Kelly, Sr., owner of Kelly’s Guns and Ammo, agreed.
“I think the SAFE Act is one of the worst things to ever come out through Cuomo. It has the total opposite effect of what it should’ve been,” he said. “Now you have people who never had a gun before owning guns.”
Both owners said people are both frightened and uniformed about a law they don’t understand. Whitney explained that few people know what the classifications of an assault weapon are and are not educated about what the SAFE Act actually means.
Kelly, who expects the act to hurt his business, said it initially created in increase in the purchase of firearms by people who wanted to stock up on a product they feared would soon be unavailable.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out. A lot of people don’t have the correct information,” he said. “When you tell someone they can’t have it, they want it even more.” Before the law went into effect, Kelly said residents were buying a lot of AR-15s or “any gun they can get their hands on.” Since then, he has cut back on such guns, because he sees no sense in stocking a firearm the state has deemed an assault weapon.
He said despite the initial influx of business, restrictions on what types of guns he can sell have hurt his store.
Whitney, meanwhile, said it is private individuals who will suffer the most both financially and socially.
“The taxpayers should be up in arms. It doesn’t benefit to put more laws in place when you don’t enforce laws that already exist,” he said. Both he and his brother and co-owner of his store, Chad Whitney, are very upset about the law and don’t believe it will be beneficial.
“When you illegalize items people all have in their house, the only people that will profit are the people still illegally selling and the government,” Chad Whitney said. The Whitneys feel the SAFE Act is infringing on their rights and forcing otherwise upstanding residents to break the law.
“The only thing it’s going to affect is law-abiding citizens,” Kelly agreed.
Chad Whitney said the act is “hacking away at the constitution” and thinks it will lead to more governmental control over residents and more illegal activity.
“It’s giving politicians more power and giving criminals more power.”
Part of the SAFE Act originally required background checks on every single ammunition purchase starting last Wednesday, but that provision has not yet been enforced, because police forces were not prepared for such a vast undertaking.
“I’ll have to run a background check on every single person that comes in to buy even one box of ammo,” Jami said. Additionally, private sellers and buyers are now required to go to a licensed dealer for background checks. The government says he can charge only up to $10 for every one of these checks.
“That’s government telling a private individual what he can charge for his time. If that’s not socialism, I don’t know what is,” he said.
He described the act as a “feel-good law,” which will start a slippery slope.
“You’re taking away my last right as an individual. If you take away my right to protect myself, that’s the scariest thing there is,” he said.
Revenue, mental health
Kelly mentioned the loss of revenue the state will face as a result of the SAFE Act, and Jami Whitney pointed out the number of major gun manufacturing companies that are relocating to other parts of the country.
The Whitneys also discussed another common criticism of the law, which is the mental health aspect. A mental health professional is required to report a person who has even one incident; this could lead to people losing their guns.
The brothers fear people who do need help will avoid it for such a reason or that the line is too extreme.
“It’s a problem with society; it’s not a problem with guns,” Chad Whitney said.
“A criminal’s a criminal no matter what,” Kelly agreed.