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Politics and Government

April 15 marks assault weapons registration deadline

Mike Saechang

April 15, besides being tax day, is the first day that owners of semi-automatic weapons will be required to register their guns with the state police. 

The head of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, a gun owners and pro-Second Amendment rights group, says his members don’t like the new requirement that they register any assault weapons they own under the state’s gun control laws.  

Tom King says while he’s not advising gun owners about whether or not they should register, he says those that want to comply are finding the new rules hard to navigate.

“Our members are complaining that there’s a ton of confusion,” said King. “They don’t know what to do.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who touted the passage of what’s known as the NY SAFE Act in January of 2013, is not promoting the registration date, and a spokeswoman for the New York State Police declined to record an interview on how to comply with the new rules.

But spokeswoman Darcy Wells did provide a link to a state-operated website, which allows gun owners to register online, with a form that requires their driver’s license number, address and e-mail. It also offers a detailed description of what guns are defined as assault weapons and must be registered.

It’s a Class A misdemeanor if the gun owner does not register and if they are caught; under the law their firearm would be confiscated.

But it’s unlikely that state police will be actively checking at this point whether someone has registered their gun. Violators would likely be caught only if they are arrested or searched in connection with another crime.

In advance of the registration date, SAFE Act opponents held a rally at the state Capitol in early April.

Cuomo has not commented on the April 15 registration date for assault weapons, but he did speak generally about opposition recently. Cuomo says he understands that gun control can bring up intense feelings, and says it’s no different from other issues he’s supported, like a women’s equality provision that includes abortion rights, and a measure to known as the Dream Act to offer tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.  

“It’s a topic that drives strong emotions,” said Cuomo. “ I understand it.”

It’s estimated that there are as many as one million assault weapons owned privately in New York. State police will not be providing figures on the number of people who register their guns.  The information can’t be disclosed, under a provision of the SAFE Act.  

Other parts of New York’s gun control law mandate universal background checks on gun purchases, increased penalties for people who use illegal guns, and life in prison without parole for anyone who murders an emergency first responder. A provision that would have limited magazine clips to seven bullets or less was thrown out by a federal court judge, and is not currently being enforced while the case is on appeal.