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Is New York's tough new gun law already in jeopardy?
Two months after its passage, the law faces a challenge from an NRA-backed lawsuit
Gov. Cuomo signs New York's Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act into law on Jan. 15.
Gov. Cuomo signs New York's Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act into law on Jan. 15. AP Photo/Mike Groll
R

iding a wave of victories at the federal level, the National Rifle Association is now setting its sights on state gun laws.

On Thursday, the NRA backed the decision by its affiliate, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, and a handful of other groups, to file a lawsuit challenging the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Act (SAFE), the state's two-month-old gun law. The suit alleges that SAFE, "severely and adversely" impacts the state's gun owners and dealers, and is an unconstitutional encroachment on the Second Amendment and Fourteenth Amendments.

"This is an action to vindicate the right of the people of the State of New York to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits infringement of the right of law-abiding citizens to keep commonly-possessed firearms in the home for defense of self and family and for other lawful purposes," the lawsuit states. The complaint focuses on the SAFE Act's limits on magazine capacity and its ban on assault weapons. Other provisions, such as licensing changes and tougher penalties for gun crimes, are not being challenged.

The groups behind the lawsuit argue that since law enforcement officials are allowed to use larger magazines and weapons, and because criminals may illegally continue to use those banned weapons as well, the Act puts citizens at a dangerous disadvantage. The filers also argue that SAFE's redefinition of "assault weapons" is unconstitutionally vague, and cannot be reasonably or evenly enforced.

The lawsuit comes after a week of good news for the NRA: Senate Democrats announced this week that they'd be dropping a proposed assault weapons ban from a bipartisan gun law, a measure the NRA had vehemently opposed. Days later, newly released Federal Election Commission filings revealed that the group raised $1.6 million in February, its best fundraising month in over a decade.

New York's gun law, the first passed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting that left 26 dead in December, are among the strictest in the nation. Signed in mid-January after sailing through the legislature, SAFE capped magazine size at seven rounds, broadened the definition of "assault weapons," and established a statewide gun registry, among other things.

The NYSRPA's complaint is the second lawsuit to attack the SAFE Act, but it's the first with the backing of the powerful NRA — even though the NRA is not specifically named as a plaintiff. The previous suit, which is still pending, challenged the swift procedure used to pass the law, not its legality.

Jon Terbush is a staff writer for TheWeek.com covering politics, sports, and other things he finds interesting. He has previously written for Talking Points Memo, Raw Story, and Business Insider.

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