Fewer than 45,000 assault weapons have been registered in New York since Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s gun control law took effect, and gun rights groups and a major trade association say the low number of registrations indicate less than five percent of residents are complying with the SAFE Act.
The New York State Police released records this week that showed 44,485 assault weapons were registered in the state since the law took effect in January 2013. With an estimated 1 million assault weapons in the state that should be registered, the low number indicates a majority of New Yorkers are defying Cuomo’s gun control law.
The release of the numbers was ordered by a judge last month after a lawsuit was filed by a local radio show host against Cuomo and the state police.
The firearms manufacturers trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, estimates there are as many as 1 million assault weapons in New York that should be registered.
Jake McGuigan, director of state affairs for NSSF, said their estimate is based on industry sales data and Federal NICS Background checks.
The total number of assault weapons registered would indicate that less than 5 percent of New Yorkers who own these weapons are complying with the SAFE Act.
In addition, the records show only 23,847 individuals sought applications to register assault weapons.
"Looking at it, I think what you’re seeing is residents and citizens in New York having a bit of a protest against a law they feel is unjust," McGuigan told the Washington Free Beacon.
McGuigan also said that 36 percent of the assault weapons were registered in New York City and Long Island, while registrations were in the single digits in upstate New York.
That disparity is telling because a large number of gun owners live in the rural area of Upstate New York.
"I think there is a genuine discontent with how the law was passed," said McGuigan. "Basically Governor Cuomo passed the law in the middle of the night," he said, adding there was no due process or input from many groups, including those in law enforcement and the firearms industry.
Stephen Aldstadt, president of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, echoed many of McGuigan’s comments. "I am not surprised by these numbers. This law was passed in the middle of the night, with no input from law enforcement, mental health professionals, or any other stakeholder. The majority of county and local governments have called for its repeal. This is an example of a bad law, and it undermines the citizens’ respect for the law."
Aldstadt said the low number of registrations was "not unexpected. I travel all over the state and heard over and over again from gun owners they would not be registering their guns."
When asked if he was happy with the low numbers, Aldstadt said, "In a perfect world, I would like to see zero."
Aldstadt also pointed out that registration numbers in Upstate New York was in the lower single digits, a telling sign since most of the counties in that area of New York passed resolutions against the SAFE Act. Many sheriffs in those counties also came out publicly and stated they would not enforce the gun control law.
Bill Robinson, the radio host of the Second Amendment Show at WYSL in Avon, N.Y., who had to sue Cuomo for the release of the registration numbers, said in a phone interview that the figures show the SAFE Act "is a totally utter failure."
"People are rejecting it—it’s an unconstitutional law," Robinson said. "It’s an absolute failure—that’s why we had so much trouble getting these numbers. They are embarrassed. It’s an embarrassment to the governor, to the state police."
"I’ll never register my long gun," Robinson said. He added that the figures released show at best 5 percent have complied with the law. The radio show itself compiled their own figures on the number of assault weapons that should be registered. Robinson said their numbers indicate there should be between 800,000 and 1 million.
"The law was not done to increase public safety. It was a political maneuver by Governor Cuomo. It was not meant to decrease crime," said McGuigan.
Last year, protesters shredded SAFE Act registration cards on the day they had to register their weapons, and many indicated they not comply with the law.