Federal court upholds N.Y. ban on assault weapons

7:15 PM, Dec 31, 2013   |    comments
A customer looks over shotguns on display at the annual New York State Arms Collectors Association Albany Gun Show on Jan. 26, 2013. (Photo: Philip Kamrass, AP)
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ALBANY, N.Y. (USA TODAY) - A federal court judge ruled Tuesday that New York's expanded ban on assault weapons is constitutional, however it cannot limit a magazine to seven bullets.

The ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny in Buffalo found New York's gun-control law, called the SAFE Act, that restricts assault weapons does not infringe on Second Amendment rights. But the judge tossed a provision that limits a magazine that can hold 10 rounds to just seven bullets.

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"This court finds that the challenged provisions of the SAFE Act - including the act's definition and regulation of assault weapons and its ban on large-capacity magazines - further the state's important interest in public safety, and do not impermissibly infringe on Plaintiffs' Second Amendment rights," Skretny ruled.

"But, the seven-round limit fails the relevant test because the purported link between the ban and the state's interest is tenuous, strained, and unsupported in the record," he continued.

The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association and other gun-rights groups filed court papers in March to challenge the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, or SAFE Act, soon after it was passed in January by the New York Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who championed the law as a response to the Newtown school shootings a year ago.

New York's law was the first gun-control law passed in the nation in the wake of the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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The court ruling is likely to be the first decision in a protracted legal battle over the law, which has been widely protested by gun-rights activists.

The lawsuit claimed that the law infringed on "fundamental constitutional rights to lawfully possess, keep, bear and use firearms for self-defense and other lawful purposes."

There was no immediate comment from Cuomo's office on the decision.

The law enacted tougher restrictions on gun sales, required added registration of gun possession and dropped the number of bullets allowed in a magazine from 10 to seven.

But New York changed the law a few months after it was passed because gun manufacturers do not make seven-round magazines. The law was modified to allow 10-round magazines, but it only could be loaded with seven bullets -- unless it was for a sporting event or at a range.

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