The Toughest Gun Control Law in the Nation: The Unfulfilled Promise of New York’s SAFE Act, James B. Jacobs and Zoe Fuhr
After the Sandy Hook shooting, New York State passed an ambitious new law that was hailed as a bold step in curbing gun violence and especially mass shootings. James B. Jacobs and Zoe Fuhr set out to provide a “reality check” on the nation’s gun control regime, using the SAFE (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement) Act as a lens. The story they tell is a sad and scary one: the nation’s “toughest” gun law, like much of the regulatory apparatus at the federal and state levels, was undermined by conceptual and definitional issues, constitutional challenges, unfunded mandates, the absence of national uniformity, implementation failures, law enforcement’s recalcitrance, and extensive noncompliance by gun owners.
First, attempts to ban “assault weapons” may be appealing to the public, but, much like the case of pornography, “I know it when I see it” does not suffice as a definition. If the goal is to outlaw weapons that are unusually dangerous, then the features that make such weapons different from others need to be specified. But depending on one’s vantage point, the same attributes—for example, enhanced accuracy, high capacity—may be viewed as assurance of successful self-defense. Second, when millions of weapons are already in circulation and they do not come with easily iden
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