The SAFE Act lives up to its name

New York’s gun control laws should be a source of pride, not contention

On February 25, 2014

The trial for the first New Yorker charged under the state's SAFE Act, which introduced much-needed common sense gun control legislation to New York just over a year ago, starts next week.

Benjamin Wassell, a resident of Western New York, was arrested and charged after "selling illegally modified semi-automatic rifles" to an undercover police officer, according to theAssociated Press.

Wassell had made illegal value-increasing alterations to the guns and sold one to an undercover officer, even after being told he was a felon for domestic violence.

The provisions under which Wassell was charged, which limit the size of gun clips and prohibit felons from owning guns, are reasonable and responsible laws for any modern state.

With his trial approaching, support for the veteran and father has surged. But the arrest was legally executed, as Wassell knowingly committed three felonies without regard or respect for the law.

More significant, though, is the burgeoning conversation surrounding the merits of the SAFE Act.

The first and most controversial piece of legislation passed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in response to the Newtown shooting, has been the source of fervent protests and lawsuits since its inception. The law has made New York the toughest state on gun control, which should be a point of pride.

The law modernized this state's gun control and despite its problems and its rushed passage through the New York State Legislature, the SAFE Act has lived up to its namesake.

No citizen in this state, or this country, should feel obligated to carry a weapon because of risks stemming from lack of gun control. Despite the oft-mentioned Second Amendment, this law and its provisions do not limit the ability of responsible gun owners to possess legal firearms and includes only reasonable restrictions.

More background checks -including for ammunition sales -a gun registry and a ban on high-capacity clips and assault weapons all work to meet the realities of modern gun ownership and use.

With the mass shootings that have plagued this nation for the past few years, particularly at schools and universities, all segments of society should embrace reasonable regulations. Gun owners claiming their right to self-defense should not deride a law that makes it more difficult for felons to obtain guns.

The practical and pragmatic law passed last January mirrors much of what the nation wanted following tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, namely, more gun control. The majority of Americans - 51 percent - supported stricter gun laws following the event, according to a Pew Research poll.

The report also stated respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 overwhelmingly supported gun control - 56 to 41.

Perhaps because we grew up in the shadow of Columbine, we understand the dangers that easily accessible guns can raise and the tragedies that can ensue.

This sentiment is coupled, however, with the grim reality that just over a year since Sandy Hook, 44 school shootings have traumatized the nation, according to a report by PolicyMic.

New York's SAFE Act is not just meaningful legislation for the state. Its provisions should be adopted nationally to prevent the preponderance of further gun violence.

With Wassell's day in court approaching, we should consider why he is being sentenced and how we can continue to limit the possibility of additional shootings. The law and its sensible provisions are working and should not only be supported, but also lauded.



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