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North Country divided on gun law reform amendment

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Changes to the controversial New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act are expected with the passage of the state’s budget, possibly as early as today.

One of the major changes is an amendment to the law suspending, indefinitely, the ban on the sale and possession of magazines capable of holding more than seven rounds.

The NYSAFE Act was passed in January and includes tougher penalties for crimes committed with guns, mandatory background checks on all gun and ammunition sales and a ban on assault weapons.

The law also makes it illegal to load a weapon with more than seven rounds unless you’re a law enforcement agent or you’re on a proper firing range.

But the state Legislature is expected to amend the law in light of the fact that few – if any – manufacturers produce seven round magazines.

The ban on magazines capable of holding more than seven rounds “would essentially ban guns,” Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said. “Nobody’s making a seven round magazine that I’m aware of.”

Mr. Griffo, who is in favor of repealing the entire NYSAFE Act, lauded the Senate’s passage of the amendment early Wednesday morning and said he expects the Assembly to pass it today.

The amendment does not have a date for the suspension of the ban to expire, Mr. Griffo said.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell said she “suspects that there will be really no more activity surrounding the 10 round magazine issue.”

Mrs. Russell also expects the Assembly to pass the amendment today.

And that’s making gun dealers in the north country happy, even if they take issue with other parts of the NYSAFE Act.

“It’s going to help slightly, Joseph J. Russell, owner of Hilltop Hunting and Fishing, Canton, said.

“Basically most manufactures will not make a seven round magazine,” Mr. Russell said.

But the amendment still makes loading a magazine with more than seven rounds illegal, even if it can hold 10 rounds.

“It’s not reasonable,” Mr. Russell said, adding that he feels the state is trying to ban all guns eventually. “It’s obvious where things are headed.”

Rick L. Jones, owner of North Woods Outfitters, Potsdam, agreed that the amendment is helpful, though he mostly sells hunting rifles.

“We would be able to sell a few more guns than what would have been in the ban; it helps,” Mr. Jones said, noting that the only guns he sells with more than a seven round magazine are .22 caliber rifles.

And Mr. Jones said hunters are already restricted to 6 rounds. “You can’t have a 10 round clip and go deer hunting.”

But that aside, Mr. Jones sees a big hole in the amended NYSAFE Act: enforcement.

If a person is dishonest, Mr. Jones said, who is going to stop them from putting more than seven rounds in a 10 round magazine? “How do you enforce it?”

Lawrence I. Kring, a retired lieutenant in the state Department of Environmental Conservation and a vocal anti-gun law reform advocate in the north country, said “I guess if you trust me with a ten round magazine with seven bullets you ought to trust me with a 30 [round magazine]with seven [bullets]. I think it’s just a ploy. I think they’re trying to throw us a little bone.”

Mr. Kring has helped organized several anti-gun law reform rallies including the up-coming April 13 rally in Gouverneur.

Mr. Kring said the amendment will “affect handguns mostly. Most of your handgun magazines are greater than 10 rounds.”

Mrs. Russell said the amendment also clarified the NYSAFE Act to ensure that law enforcement agents are able to carry larger magazines.

Mr. Griffo said, while he hopes to repeal the entire law, he doesn’t think the votes exist in the Legislature to do it.

“I think what’s possible is to get 10 rounds back,” Mr. Griffo said, expressing his desire to see the seven round minimum removed entirely.

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