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New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n, Inc. v. Cuomo

United States District Court, W.D. New York

December 31, 2013

NEW YORK STATE RIFLE AND PISTOL ASSOCIATION, INC.; WESTCHESTER COUNTY FIREARMS OWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC.; SPORTSMEN'S ASSOCIATION FOR FIREARMS EDUCATION, INC.; NEW YORK STATE AMATEUR TRAPSHOOTING ASSOCIATION, INC.; BEDELL CUSTOM; BEIKIRCH AMMUNITION CORPORATION; BLUELINE TACTICAL & POLICE SUPPLY, LLC; BATAVIA MARINE & SPORTING SUPPLY; WILLIAM NOJAY, THOMAS GALVIN, and ROGER HORVATH, Plaintiffs,
v.
ANDREW M. CUOMO, Governor of the State of New York; ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN, Attorney General of the State of New York; JOSEPH A. D'AMICO, Superintendent of the New York State Police; LAWRENCE FRIEDMAN, District Attorney for Genesee County; and GERALD J. GILL, Chief of Police for the Town of Lancaster, New York, Defendants

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For William Nojay, Thomas Galvin, Roger Horvath, Batavia Marine & Sporting Supply, New York State Rifle and Pistol nAssociation, Inc., Westchester County Firearms Owners Association, Inc., Sportsmen's Association for Firearms Education, Inc., New York State Amateur Trapshooting Association, Inc., Bedell Custom, Beikirch Ammunition Corporation, Blueline Tactical & Police Supply, LLC, Plaintiffs: Brian Thomas Stapleton, LEAD ATTORNEY, Goldberg Segalla, LLP, White Plains, NY; Matthew S. Lerner, LEAD ATTORNEY, Goldberg Segalla LLP, Albany, NY; Carl D. Michel, PRO HAC VICE, Michel & Associates, P.C., Long Beach, CA; Stephen P. Halbrook, PRO HAC VICE, Fairfax, VA.

For Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General of the State of New York, Joseph A. D'Amico, Superintendent of the New York State Police, Defendants: Benjamin K. Ahlstrom, LEAD ATTORNEY, New York State Attorney General's Office, Buffalo, NY; Monica Anne Connell, William James Taylor, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEYS, New York State Attorney General's Office, New York, NY.

For Gerald J. Gill, Chief of Police for the Town of Lancaster, New York, Defendant: Kevin M. Kearney, LEAD ATTORNEY, Hodgson Russ LLP, Buffalo, NY; Robert J. Fluskey, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Hodgson Russ, LLP, Buffalo, NY.

For National Rifle Association of America, Inc., Amicus: John G. Schmidt, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Nicolas J. Rotsko, Phillips Lytle LLP, Buffalo, NY; Charles J. Cooper, David H. Thompson, PRO HAC VICE, Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, Washington, DC.

For New York State Sheriffs' Association, Inc., Timothy B. Howard, Erie County Sheriff, Reuel A. Todd, Oswego County Sheriff, Barry C. Virts, Wayne County Sheriff, Donald B. Smith, Putnam County Sheriff, Thomas J. Lorey, Fulton County Sheriff, Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, (LELDF), Law Enforcement Action Network, (LEAN), International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, (ILEETA), Amicus: Carl D. Michel, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Michel & Associates, P.C., Long Beach, CA; Jeffrey Chamberlain, LEAD ATTORNEY, Chamberlain and Kaufman, Albany, NY; Sheldon W. Boyce, William J. Brongo, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Brenna, Brenna and Boyce, PLLC, Rochester, NY; Alfred S. Regnery, Arlington, VA; Clinton B. Monfort, Long Beach, CA; David Martin, Law Office of David Henderson Martin, Arlington, VA; Edwin Meese, III, McLean, VA.

For The Police Foundation, The Major Cities Chiefs Association, The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Amicus: Colin J. Garry, LEAD ATTORNEY, Sidley Austin LLP, New York, NY; Kristin Graham Koehler, LEAD ATTORNEY, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, DC; James Edward Mendenhall, Lisa E. Jones, PRO HAC VICE, Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, DC.

For Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Amicus: Terrence M. Connors, LEAD ATTORNEY, Connors & Vilardo, LLP, Buffalo, NY; Alan R. Friedman, Mark T. Ciani, PRO HAC VICE, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, New York, NY; Jonathan K. Baum, PRO HAC VICE, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, Chicago, IL.

For Senator Kathleen A. Marchione, Amicus: Matthew J. Kelly, LEAD ATTORNEY, Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux LLP, Albany, NY.

For Pink Pistols, Amicus: Richard A. Grimm, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, Magavern, Magavern & Grimm, Buffalo, NY.

For National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., Amicus: Scott Charles Allan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Renzulli Law Firm LLP, White Plains, NY.

OPINION

Page 353

WILLIAM M. SKRETNY, Chief United States District Judge.

DECISION AND ORDER

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION

II. BACKGROUND

A. The SAFE Act

1. Assault Weapons

2. Magazines and Ammunition

B. Procedural History

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards

B. Standing

C. The Second Amendment & Heller

D. Standard of Review

1. Common Use & Substantial Burden

2. Intermediate Scrutiny

E. Application of Intermediate Scrutiny to the SAFE Act

1. Assault Weapons

2. Large-capacity Magazines

3. Seven-round Limit

F. Vagueness

1. The " conspicuously protruding" pistol grip

2. The threaded barrel

3. Magazine-capacity restrictions

4. The five-round shotgun limit

5. " Can be readily restored or converted"

6. The " and if" clause of Penal Law § 265.36

7. Muzzle " break"

8. " Version" of an automatic weapon

9. Manufactured weight

10. Commercial transfer

G. Dormant Commerce Clause

IV. CONCLUSION

V. ORDERS

Page 354

I. INTRODUCTION

On January 15, 2013, New York's Governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, signed into law the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013. Commonly known by its acronym, the SAFE Act makes broad and varied changes to firearm regulation in New York State. The Act amends or supplements various aspects of New York law, including, among others, the criminal procedure law, the correction law, the family court law, the executive law, the general business law, the judiciary law, the mental hygiene law, and, of course, the penal law. According to its drafters, this network of new laws, which generally enhances regulation and increases penalties for the illegal possession of firearms, is designed to " protect New Yorkers by reducing the availability of assault weapons and deterring the criminal use of firearms while promoting a fair, consistent and efficient method of ensuring that sportsmen and other legal gun owners have full enjoyment of the guns to which they are entitled." (Senate, Assembly, and Gov. Memos in Supp., Bill No. S2230-2013.)

Plaintiffs, comprising various associations of gun owners and advocates, companies in the business of selling firearms, and individual gun-owning citizens of New York, challenge several aspects of the law. Principally, Plaintiffs maintain that certain restrictions codified in the SAFE Act, like those concerning large-capacity magazines and those regulating assault weapons, violate their right " to keep and bear arms" under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. They also assert that several aspects of the law are unconstitutionally vague and that certain provisions violate the Equal Protection and " dormant" Commerce Clauses of the United States Constitution.

Three motions are currently before this Court. Plaintiffs first filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. That motion raised several -- but not all -- the challenges outlined above. In response to that motion, Defendants Andrew Cuomo, Eric Schneiderman, and Joseph D'Amico cross-moved to dismiss the case under Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(6), and 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1] Then, Plaintiffs responded with their own motion for summary judgment. Because both sides have subsequently filed dispostive motions, this Court deems Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction moot.

In resolving the pending motions, this Court notes that whether regulating firearms is wise or warranted is not a judicial question; it is a political one. This Court's function is thus limited to resolving whether New York's elected representatives acted within the confines of the United States Constitution in passing the SAFE Act. Undertaking that task, and applying the governing legal standards, the majority of the challenged provisions withstand constitutional scrutiny.

As explained in more detail below, although so-called " assault weapons" and large-capacity magazines, as defined in the Safe Act, may -- in some fashion -- be " in common use," New York has presented ...


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