New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type



Criminal Law Bulletin (2017), Forthcoming Albany Law Review, Vol. 79 No. 4, 2016


The January 2013 New York State Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE Act) was the most immediate and strongest gun control response to the December 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. Among other provisions, it banned new manufacture, sale and possession of semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and pistols with one or more military-style features. Existing owners of these prohibited weapons were grandfathered if they registered with the State Police, but they cannot, even at death, transfer possession to any New York State resident. In addition, the Act prohibits possession of greater than seven (amended to 10) round magazines; there is no grandfathering. This Article closely analyzes the SAFE Act as conceived, implemented and enforced. It cautions that even this strongest of assault weapon and large capacity magazine bans is likely to have little effect on mass killings or gun crime because of conceptual, implementation and enforcement problems.

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