A year ago New York legislators approved gun controls championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo so quickly that they did not have time to read the bill, let alone debate it. Cuomo nevertheless insisted that the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act “was not hastily put together.” The embarrassing mistakes and omissions that prompted multiple amendments during the year that followed Cuomo’s victory suggested otherwise. So does this week’s decision by U.S. District Judge William Skretny, who overturned several provisions of the SAFE Act that reflect the unseemly haste with which the law was enacted.
Responding to a challenge by various gun rights group, Skretny agreed that three parts of the SAFE Act are unconstitutionally vague. One of them bans semiautomatic rifles with “muzzle breaks,” a heretofore undiscovered firearm feature:
When properly attached to a firearm, a muzzle brake reduces recoil. The SAFE Act, however, regulates muzzle “breaks.” Although New York contends that this is a simple oversight in drafting, and that it intended to refer to muzzle “brakes,” it has provided no evidence suggesting that this was the legislature’s intent….There is no dispute that there is no accepted meaning to the term “muzzle break.” Both sides agree that it is, quite simply, meaningless. Consequently, an ordinary person cannot be “informed as to what the State commands or forbids.” All references to muzzle “break” must therefore be stricken.