State needs to repeal the SAFE Act now

By Denton Publications Editorial Board

First Posted: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 -6 a.m.

“Nobody needs 10 rounds to kill a deer,” or so bloviated our governor while he was in the process of ramming the so called “SAFE Act” down New Yorker’s throats.

Passed in the dead of night in the wake of the Newtown school shooting, an outlier in the world of homicides if there ever was one, the SAFE Act takes away much of the protections New Yorkers are afforded under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In his “10 rounds” pontification, the governor was referencing one section of the SAFE Act, since ruled unconstitutional, limiting magazine capacities to no more than an arbitrary limit of seven rounds. If you don’t need it to kill a deer, the governor implied, you shouldn’t be allowed to have it.

Let’s look at this concept a little more deeply. First off, by this logic, we can’t imagine why snub-nosed revolvers should be legal. Nobody needs a snub-nosed .38 to kill a deer after all. And what about any shot smaller than 00 Buckshot? Nobody needs bird shot to kill a deer. Taking the governor’s “logic” ad absurdum, only slug shotguns, and rifles with calibers between 30-30 and 300 Winchester Mag should be allowed. Nobody needs anything other than that to kill a deer after all. And why seven rounds? A good hunter needs one, maybe two or three rounds to kill a deer. Why stop at seven? Ban anything above three rounds?

What the governor overlooks here is the Second Amendment, the single most costly incomplete sentence in American history. The Second Amendment does not give Americans the right to just keep and bear deer rifles. It affords citizens the right to keep and bear arms. Assault rifles, Mr. Cuomo, are arms. They are protected under the Second Amendment.

Gun control advocates will most certainly argue that it’s a matter of safety. Our children are being mowed down by assault rifles. While that was tragically true at Newtown, and Aurora, California, and unfortunately some other mass shootings, it’s simply not the case that assault rifles are killing more people than other means. Statistics abound, but the FBI’s are typically considered the gold standard. Let’s take a look at the 2012 homicide stats, compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Homicides by all methods of firearm totaled 8,855. Of those 322 were by rifle — not assault rifles, any kind of rifle. (Separate statistics are not kept for assault rifles.) Add to this some unknown percentage for a category the FBI has for “Firearms, type not stated,” which totaled 1,749. Even given the statistical impossibility that all of these were rifles, that gives us a possible total of 2,071 homicides by some sort of rifle. An unknown, but definitely smaller, number of these rifles were assault rifles. Handguns on the other hand were used in at least 6,371, plus whatever percentage of the 1,749 unclassified guns were handguns. So at the very farthest statistical borderline you are 66 percent more likely to be killed by a handgun than some sort of rifle. The true gulf between handguns and rifles is likely much higher.

But wait, there are plenty of other ways to be killed. Keep the 322 deaths by rifle figure in mind. Now consider that 1,589 people were killed in 2012 by knives or cutting instruments. Also notable, 518 were killed by blunt objects, and 678 were killed by “fists, feet, etc.” Shotguns bring up the rear at 303, plus again some percentage of the unknown firearms. So, to keep our children safe, the governor targeted the second least dangerous death-inducing implement there is, based on FBI statistics. More people would be made safer if he had banned blunt objects, something, by the way, which isn’t constitutionally protected.

Ignoring that obvious problem in the governor’s logic, anti-gun advocates will argue that the SAFE act also keeps us safer by mandating that mental health professionals report anyone who might espouse suicidal tendencies to the State Police, undoubtedly so their guns can then be confiscated by the State Police. Here is where this idea runs off the rails. Gun owners love their guns. Suicidal gun owners, or borderline suicidal gun owners, also love their guns. If a gun owner is considering suicide, they now know that if they reach out to a mental health professional and try to get help for their condition, they will lose their guns. Thanks to the SAFE Act, fewer people on the borderline of mental illness or suicide will seek help. Any gun owner who is feeling suicidal is going to keep that fact to themselves, instead of getting help. How, Mr. Cuomo, does that make us safer?

Let’s make no bones about the true purpose behind the SAFE Act. Mr. Cuomo has for some time set his sights on higher office — now rumored to be that of vice president. He saw the possibility of gaining some national spotlight, plus lining up some liberal Bona Fides, for fund raising and national campaigning time, with a “Andrew Cuomo is tough on guns, so vote for the Clinton/Cuomo ticket” platform.

As they say, the devil is in the details, and the parts of the SAFE act which haven’t already been found unconstitutional either do nothing to make New Yorkers safer, or will have the exact opposite effect. We respectfully ask our state legislators to repeal the SAFE Act now, and go to work on some measures that might have a chance of doing something other than making the situation worse.