Provision in law says state isn’t required to disclose how many assault weapons are registered
By Rick Karlin
Published 9:53 pm, Friday, November 8, 2013
A major component of Gov.
Andrew Cuomo‘s NY SAFE Act gun control law is a state secret.
Almost a year after the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act was passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor, state officials say they aren’t required to reveal how many people have registered assault weapons with the state. The law appears to have been written with such secrecy in mind — but it’s become apparent only as requests for that information are being denied.
The law bans owning and selling assault-style weapons. Those who already owned such guns before the measure was signed can keep them if they register with the State Police by April 15, 2014.
The Times Union recently asked how many assault-weapon owners have registered their weapons to date. The answer came in the form of a little-known clause tucked into the law that says the information is confidential: “State Police cannot release information related to the registration of assault weapons including the number of assault weapons registered.”
“Those records you seek are derived from information collected for the State Police database and are, therefore, exempt from disclosure,” State Police spokeswoman Darcy Wells said in a written statement. The State Police are charged with creating and maintaining a database of the registered guns.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi referred questions to the State Police. Officials pointed to a section in the SAFE Act that says, “Records assembled or collected for purposes of inclusion in such (a) database shall not be subject to disclosure.”
Advocacy groups — including those that supported the gun control measure and those that took no stance — said they disagree keeping SAFE Act data secret. New York Public Interest Research Group has neither supported nor opposed the SAFE Act. But its legislative director, Blair Horner, said he believes the number of registrants shouldn’t be a secret.
“I can’t think of a policy reason why that shouldn’t be public information,” he said. “It is absolutely appalling,” said Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director for the state League of Women Voters, which supported the SAFE Act. “There is no question that the public should know how many weapons are being registered,” she said.
Robert Freeman, executive director for the State Committee on Open Government, said he agrees that the total number of registrations should be made public if that information exists. “It should be public, in my opinion,” he said.
The secrecy has also upset SAFE Act opponents, some of whom had earlier sought a registration total and had been denied.
“We don’t care about names or addresses (of registrants). We just want totals,” said George Rogero, who heads the Orange County NY Shooters group and runs a blog on Second Amendment issues. He tried getting the number earlier this year under the state’s Freedom of Information Law, but was turned down.
Rogero said the law makes a provision for getting the number with a court order but said, “I don’t have $15,000 or $20,000 to take (a legal fight) any further.”
Gun rights advocates say they are interested in tallying registrations, in part, because with many local sheriffs opposed to the SAFE Act, they believe that only a handful of those with the grandfathered weapons will bother to register.
No one knows how many assault-style weapons are in New York state. Shortly after the law was passed, State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico estimated that there could be hundreds of thousands. Others have said 1 million isn’t an unrealistic number. “There is no way to know,” said Rogero.
The newly banned weapons have certain military or combat-style features, such as a bayonet lug or a pistol grip.
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To learn more about which weapons must be registered by April 15, visit