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September 30, 2014
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Opinion

Guest Commentary: Right to own guns still needs protection after SAFE Act

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” On Jan. 15, 2013, the New York State Legislature passed, and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed, the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act — the so-called SAFE Act. The Act was passed under a “certificate of necessity” issued by the governor, waiving the usual three-day minimum period for study and consideration. The Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn., provided an emotional wave to push the legislation through quickly, unread by many legislators. After its passage, it was apparent that it contained many flawed provisions and weakened Second Amendment rights. Some legislators, not satisfied with the unworkable law they created, are now pushing for more gun restrictions, further abridging Second Amendment rights.

The Tompkins County Republican Party opposes the SAFE Act and favors its full repeal. We do so based on the act’s violation of the Constitution, specifically the Second Amendment. The U.S. Constitution is no “mere guideline.” It limits government to very specific powers and protects individual rights. Whatever your position on firearms is, the Constitution and its rights are worthy of protection.

Martin Niemoeller, a prominent pastor who emerged as a public foe of Adolf Hitler, said after World War II he had remained silent while the Nazis destroyed liberties because he had not been part of Nazi-targeted groups. When they eventually came for him, he realized there was no one left to protect his own rights. We must not fall into the same situation. We must act to protect constitutional rights now or lose them forever.

The SAFE Act has a fundamental flaw in that it will not work to restrain gun possession and use by criminals. It will burden only law abiding citizens. It is naive to think real criminals will obey the law.

The act also imposes many restrictions on gun ownership and ammunition. It criminalizes relatively harmless acts, like transferring firearms to a family member. It burdens law enforcement agencies with bureaucratic rules, wasting time that could be spent pursuing real criminals. A key provision, limiting the number of rounds permitted to be loaded in a standard 10-round magazines to seven, has already been found to be constitutionally defective.

Laws that cannot achieve their purposes and that a large segment of the public opposes often fail. The Volstead Act, which enforced prohibition, was widely opposed, and banning the production and sale of alcohol did not work. The SAFE Act is another such law. Gun control laws are notoriously ineffective. Chicago, with the toughest gun laws in the nation, has the highest homicide rate. Texas, which restricts guns less invasively, has one of the lowest.

The SAFE Act should be repealed entirely. Legislatures across upstate New York, with the sole exception of Tompkins County, have come out against the SAFE Act. And Martha Robertson, former county chairwoman, voted both ways on the SAFE Act, supporting it for her liberal Tompkins constituents and opposing it outside Tompkins in her run for Congress.

New York has taken away gun owner rights. Even if you don’t own a gun or don’t want to own one, it is time to rally around groups fighting to defend Second Amendment rights. So when the government comes to limit your freedoms — through Obamacare’s huge cost shift burdening the young to subsidize the old, the NSA, the IRS scandal or the SAFE Act — the precedent will not have been set that the Constitution is meaningless and its protections can be overridden at the whim of the government. It could happen here. Don’t let it happen.