The process of recertifying the registration of gun owners in New York, brought on by the 2013 SAFE Act, has been filled with protest and incompetence, according to local law enforcement and gun-rights activists.
The latest dust up over the gun-control law passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting concerns the registration of gun owners. Before the law, all New York pistol licenses were issued on a lifetime basis and did not need to be renewed. The SAFE Act instituted a requirement that the licenses be recertified every five years with January 31, 2018, being the first deadline. Due to database setbacks and civil disobedience, enforcement of the requirement has faced serious hurdles.
New York law enforcement officials have been told not to enforce that provision because of a major bureaucratic backlog, according to Yates County sheriff Ron Spike.
"The NYS Sheriffs met with the NYS Police Superintendent George Beach last week and with all the mailings of recertifications coming in they (NYSP) are overwhelmed," Sheriff Spike told the Washington Free Beacon. "It will be 9-12 months before they can have assurances that they have their database of licensees up to date. Therefore, operationally they are not recommending any enforcement actions until 2019 for noncompliance."
Sheriff Spike said instead of arresting any pistol-carrying New Yorkers with outdated pistol licenses, his department will assist them with becoming recertified.
"There is a need to ensure that for any future enforcement that the proof exists that someone intentionally or willfully did not recertify," he said. "In the meantime, if we find someone who hasn't recertified then LEO's will give them proper information to do so and assist in their recertification process."
It's unclear how many people have recertified their pistol licenses and how many have yet to so. An NPR report published on Wednesday said at least 81,000—20 percent of all license holders—have yet to recertify. However, local gun-rights group Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE) said as many as 50 percent of pistol owners may have missed the deadline either by accident or as a form of protest.
"Recertification has turned into a nightmare for the bureaucracy including the state police," Tim Andrews, SCOPE's president, told the Free Beacon. "Today, being the last day for recertification it's estimated by police and county clerks there could be as high as 50 percent noncompliance. That noncompliance could be for a variety of reasons, civil disobedience or people simply not aware of the law."
Andrews said the recertification process targets the most law-abiding New Yorkers.
"For over one-hundred years a New York State pistol license was issued for life, provided the licensee kept his nose clean and wasn’t convicted of a crime," he said. "Rarely, have licensed pistol holders been convicted of a crime. Now licenses must be recertified every five years. Keep in mind only law-abiding citizens have pistol licenses—how recertification makes citizens safer has yet to be explained by the governor."
He said the recertification process is another example of how the SAFE Act fails to meet its stated goals and the bureaucratic problems with enforcing it are a drain on the state's finances.
"The bottom line: You have a law that was passed in haste to fix a problem that didn’t exist," Andrews said. "The law has proven to be costly and unwieldly and does nothing to reduce crime or keep guns out of the hands of criminals."
Mary Lou Lang contributed to this report.