Twenty-Two States Support Lawsuit Against Cuomo’s SAFE Act

AGs file amicus brief opposing gun control legislation

Semiautomatic rifle
May 8, 2014

The attorneys general of 22 states have filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn New York’s SAFE Act, claiming the law is unconstitutional.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange filed the brief in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as part of the lawsuit NYSRPA v. Cuomo, which was filed by individual gun owners and organizations challenging New York’s gun ban.

"This brief is about protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens to bear arms in the defense of themselves and their families," Strange said.

"I and other attorneys general believe these fundamental rights deserve the highest protection and that New York’s gun ban is unconstitutional under principles the Supreme Court has already established," said Strange.

Alabama’s attorney general, the lead author of the bipartisan brief, was joined by attorneys general from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The brief urges the court to scrutinize New York’s ban of certain semiautomatic weapons. It also argues the ban is unconstitutional because the state has failed to show how the ban would increase public safety or decrease gun violence.

"Because New York’s law amounts to a categorical ban of firearms commonly used for lawful purposes by law-abiding citizens, this court should subject the law to strict scrutiny under its tiers of scrutiny framework," the brief states.

The SAFE Act "fails strict scrutiny" and the brief says studies show the "federal assault weapons ban had no measurable effect on gun violence, and police officers oppose such bans."

Furthermore, criminals will "continue to obtain weapons with the banned safety features, placing law-abiding citizens at risk."

The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association’s vice president of legislative and political affairs Jacob J. Rieper supported the brief.

"NYSRPA believes that the same standards of strict scrutiny currently applied to laws pertaining to the First Amendment should also be applied to laws related to the Second Amendment, and we are glad that these state attorneys general are standing with us," Rieper said in an emailed statement.

Stephen Aldstadt, president of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, highlighted the widespread nature of opposition to the bill.

"Not only do 52 of New York State’s 62 county legislatures oppose Andrew Cuomo’s NY SAFE Act, but now 22 other states have weighed in and filed a brief in federal court to challenge the constitutionality of this law," Alstadt said.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R.) on Tuesday directed the state attorney general to join in the lawsuit.

"This is another case where one state’s gun laws could have a negative impact on Second Amendment rights nationally and in Wyoming. These rights are fundamental to the people and critical to our way of life," Gov. Mead said in a prepared statement. "I will continue to protect our Second Amendment rights."

South Dakota’s Attorney General Marty J. Jackley in a release to the press yesterday noted that the types of weapons banned by the SAFE Act are commonly used while hunting.

"Hunting with semiautomatic firearms for pheasant, waterfowl, and big game is commonplace in South Dakota," Jackley said. "While the ban only applies to New York at this time, the federal court’s upholding of the gun ban sets a concerning precedent interpreting limitations on Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding citizens including here in South Dakota."

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox also issued a statement indicating the SAFE Act ban would impact law-abiding citizens.

"Semiautomatic firearms are perhaps the most commonly used firearm for self-defense," Fox said. "Excluding an entire class of firearms from law abiding citizens limits their ability to lawfully protect themselves, their families, and their homes. It would also impact law-abiding sportsmen and shooting enthusiasts, because semi-automatic rifles, handguns, and shotguns would not be available for their use either."