As each year progresses, we in the New York State Legislature are forced to face many challenging obstacles. For the sake of good government, certain protocols have been enacted to provide time for public input and allow elected officials to offer amendments to legislation as necessary.
Currently, the state constitution requires bills to “age” three days so legislators and the public have an opportunity to review them. However, this policy can be overridden if a “message of necessity” is issued by the governor. Unfortunately, the frequency with which messages of necessity have been used in the past has led many New Yorkers to conclude that the system has been subject to abuse, most recently with regard to passage of the marriage equality bill, creating a Tier VI for public employees, redistricting and, more recently, for passage of the NY SAFE Act.
The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, commonly known as the NY SAFE Act, bans certain firearms in the state, requires registration of certain guns, limits the number of bullets a magazine can hold and mandates reporting by mental health professionals about potential threats to public safety.
As we delve deeper into this legislation, more and more problems become apparent. We do not want anyone’s safety compromised because of the short-sighted provisions in this new law. The law was criticized as "rushed through" the state legislature with no consideration for whether it would criminalize police and other law enforcement officers who carry firearms with magazines with a larger capacity than those allowed for civilians.
The new definition of assault weapons is too broad, and prevents the possession of many weapons that are legitimately used for hunting, target shooting and self defense. Some mental health experts have expressed concerns that the law might interfere with their treatment of potentially dangerous individuals, or discourage such people from seeking treatment. As dangerous as guns can be, ill-conceived reporting provisions in laws like the NY SAFE Act are equally dangerous to our civil liberties.
As elected officials, it is our duty to serve the people, but it seems that all Albany is capable of doing is wreaking more havoc. We need to ensure that mistakes like those made during the conception and passage of the NY SAFE Act do not repeat themselves. In the future, we must take the time to pass quality legislation that enhances the lives of state residents, rather than hastily-written measures crafted for nothing more than political gain.