The right to life, liberty and semi-automatic rifles

Opponents of the SAFE Act need to accept the basic tenets of democracy

On April 24, 2014

When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo passed the SAFE Act in January 2013, he described the law as the "toughest" gun legislation in the nation. Although that has been a source of pride for some state residents, it has also generated contention, complaining and civil disobedience.

The SAFE Act requires the creation of an assault weapon registry as one of its provisions. Citizens owning shotguns and rifles that are semi-automatic and have military characteristics are required to register these guns with the state. The deadline for registration has come and gone, and opponents to the law refuse to register their weapons, claiming that the SAFE Act infringes on their Second Amendment rights.

Let's be clear about this. The Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. A law requiring the registration of said arms is not an infringement upon that right.

No matter how fervently opponents of the SAFE Act try to suggest otherwise, the Second Amendment is not in danger. The 194 children killed since the Sandy Hook shootings - they were in danger. The almost 3,800 Americans shot to death accidentally from 2005-10 - they were in danger. But the Bill of Rights is not under attack. It is, so to speak "safe," from the SAFE Act.

The Second Amendment enjoys greater protection than children in elementary schools. Gun owners who try to act like they're the victims seem to forget that the actual victims of the gun control debate are no longer breathing.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers who rely on law enforcement officers to actually enforce the law may not be feeling quite so safe. Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard has openly flouted the SAFE Act, stating that he will not encourage his deputies to report individuals with unregistered firearms.

This flagrant disregard for the law, displayed by someone who is under oath to serve as the very embodiment of legality, duty and cooperation is nothing short of disturbing. Citizens rely on the police for protection; it is expected that officers enforce the laws that exist, not just the laws they favor.

Gun-rights advocates claim "registration is confiscation." Such hyperbolic and inaccurate statements are their only defense against this law. This nation is composed of a vastly heterogeneous group of citizens with wildly varying opinions and as an American it is necessary to understand that compromise is essential to democracy.

Opponents of the SAFE Act want to keep their guns and keep the government in the dark. Those who support gun control, like the group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, would rather live in a community where military-style weapons are banned altogether.

When it comes to gun control, it's not possible to satisfy everyone. The spectrum of opinions is simply too wide, and the difference of values too irreconcilable.  But the protestors shredding gun registration forms aren't even willing to approach a middle ground. They're too mired in conspiracy theory to realize that their rights aren't threatened.

But the SAFE Act isn't taking away citizens' rights - or their guns. Guns with a magazine capacity in excess of seven rounds, guns with bayonet mounts or grenade launchers are all still legal.

Opponents of the SAFE Act can hold tight to their rifles with detachable magazines and military characteristics as they claim that their rights are endangered. Meanwhile, the rest of New Yorkers rely on the state to protect that other unalienable right, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; the right to a life that isn't cut short by a semi-automatic shotgun.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com


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