State to go to court March 11 over gun law (UPDATED)

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A state judge has accepted a constitutional challenge to the so-called NY SAFE Act after opponents filed a complaint yesterday.

State Supreme Court Judge Gerald Connolly signed an order directing Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to “show cause” in court March 11 that the law should not be enjoined.

According to a gun-rights group leading the complaint, We The People of New York, Inc., 1,256 plaintiffs from 58 New York counties filed a constitutional challenge in the Albany court Thursday. The complaint argues that Cuomo’s “message of necessity,” use to push the bill through the Legislature without the required three-day waiting period, included misrepresentations, violating the state constitution.

(UPDATE) Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi responded to the lawsuit in an e-mail. He said: “We believe the law is, and the process was, valid and constitutional.”

The lawsuit also names Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“Contrary to what the Message of Necessity said, the NY SAFE Act does not immediately ban the possession or ownership of an estimated one million assault weapons currently in use by New York citizens,” the group said. “Nor does it immediately ban the purchase and sale of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices between individuals.”

The message of necessity reads: “Some weapons are so dangerous, and some ammunition devices are so lethal, that New York State must act without delay to prohibit their continued sale and possession in the State in order to protect its children, first responders and citizens as soon as possible. This bill, if enacted, would do so by immediately banning the ownership, purchase and sale of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices.”

The law, passed Jan. 15, grandfathers in assault weapons already owned by New Yorkers, requiring owners to register the guns with the state. Therefore, it does not ban possession or ownership of the weapons outright. It also allows gun owners to sell assault weapons to state dealers or individuals out of state by Jan. 15, 2014, if they choose not to register the weapons. So that change is not immediate.

“For starters, Governor Cuomo violated Article III, Section 14 of the New York Constitution by mis-stating the facts in his Message of Necessity in order to ram the NY SAFE Act through the Senate and Assembly in a matter of hours. There was no legitimate need for speed,” Robert Schulz, the lead plaintiff in the case, said in a statement.

“He did this to avoid the People’s constitutional mandate that all bills be reviewed for three days before a final vote is taken, an action he has used before to avoid public input on controversial issues,” Schulz said. “The People of New York should be very concerned about a Governor and acquiescent Legislature with a king-like approach to governing, who would force millions of citizens to turn a blind eye to their Constitution while their basic Rights are taken away.”

The case has been assigned to the state Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara in Saratoga County, according to the group.

The Legislature is also named in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs accuse lawmakers of approving the message of necessity without knowing its contents and passing the law without reading it.

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