State officials have been silent on the background check requirement as the deadline approaches, and the reason is now evident: the system isn’t ready.
Gun shop owners who sell ammunition say they haven’t heard anything from the state on the background check requirement, one of many provisions of the SAFE Act that has rankled sportsmen and gun owners across the state.
Most are predicting the Jan. 15 date will arrive and pass without the requirement.
“This is not ready to go live in January, or we’ll have an Obama-like website," said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, referring to the problems the Obama administration had with its health insurance site.
State officials have admitted no background checks will be administered in January on buyers purchasing ammo. And gun dealers say, to date, they’ve heard virtually nothing on the requirement.
“I have not heard one word from the state as to whether there’s going to be a change in that Jan 15 date,” said Phil Franklin of Franklin Shooting Supplies in Locke (Cayuga County) “In fact, I’ve only received one official notice from the state since the SAFE Act was passed. There’s been a total lack of communication with those who are on the front lines of this, for sure.”
Les McDermott, who operates Veterans Gun Depot in Green Island (Albany County), said he’s heard nothing from the state.
“Nobody has told us anything,” McDermott told the Albany Times-Union.
Another gun shop owner, Tom Will of The Gun Locker in Tonawanda (Erie County), thinks it’s possible the state may ultimately pull back on the mandatory background check requirement for ammo purchases.
“It’s 50-50,” Will said. “The governor could play martyr and try to win back some support by scrapping it, or he could go the other route and say ‘a law is a law.’ But they’re not ready right now. They don’t have the equipment and people to do it.”
State police administer provisions of the SAFE Act, and officials indicated the Jan. 15 date isn’t etched in stone but serves as a “placeholder” in the process. Background checks have to be certified by the superintendent of the state police, and can begin 30 days after that occurs.
A state police spokesperson said in a prepared statement the agency “is working on technology solutions to be able to carry out this section of the SAFE Act so that the public, buyers and sellers are not inconvenienced or delayed in any way when they purchase ammunition.”
Some gun shop owners, however, have predicted long lines at their shops as they run the background checks on ammo buyers.
“It’s my understanding that when this goes into effect, whether you’re buying 1,000 rounds of AK47 ammo or a box of 22 bullets you’re under the same regulations and have to undergo a background check,” Franklin said. “It sounds a little ridiculous.”
Franklin says his shop will continue to sell ammunition when and if the provision takes effect, and will offer the $10 background checks “as a convenience to people. It certainly won’t be a moneymaker when you factor in our time.”
Will said the lack of communication by the state has been frustrating for ammo dealers. “There’s a lot we don’t know yet,” he said. “There will be some expense involved with a computer, ink cartridges and forms to run the background checks, and we don’t know if the state is going to pay for that.”
While firearms dealers are already licensed federally, the ammo background check provision requires ammunition dealers to be registered with the state by Jan. 15. State police officials say that requirement will take effect as planned.
The SAFE Act unveiled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and quickly passed by the Legislature in response to the Newtown, Conn., school shootings drew immediate reaction from sportsmen and gun owners across the state.
The law bans a number of so-called assault weapons, limits the number of rounds in a magazine to seven and mandates registration of the banned weapons – grandfathered for those already owning them – by April 15.
Public outcry against the SAFE Act was immediate and opposition to the law has maintained its momentum, with most upstate counties passing resolutions in opposition to the SAFE Act.
Opponents call it an unconstitutional infringement on Second Amendment rights, and the law is being challenged in court.
The state sheriff’s association has also criticized the law, and several sheriffs have indicated they will not seek to enforce its provisions.