Ammo shipments end up in NY probe’s crosshairs
CNHI STATE REPORTER
ALBANY – State officials say they have put a crimp in the shipments of ammunition purchased online by New York customers.
A total of 39 ammunition dealers have received cease and desist letters from the state attorney general’s office. The alleged violators face no charges now but were warned they will face “serious legal consequences” if they continue to ship ammunition to New York addresses.
“Shipping bullets to New Yorkers’ doorsteps is illegal and ammunition sellers that ignore the law will face the full force of my office,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Online sales of ammunition are dangerous and could end up in the wrong hands.”
James said direct sale shipments of ammunition to New Yorkers are a violation of the 2013 legislation known as the New York SAFE Act, a measure best known for restricting the sale of certain semi-automatic rifles and bans the possession of a magazine that has the capacity to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
However, the state sowed confusion among ammunition dealers when in 2015 the administration of then Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed off on a memorandum of understanding with the state Senate, suspending a plan to implement an ammunition database and requiring sellers to determine if buyers were eligible to purchase ammunition, said
Thomas King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.
“When the deal between Cuomo and the Senate happened, some people thought the prohibition about the shipping of ammo went away,” King said. “But it didn’t.”
King said he is skeptical the enforcement action announced by James will yield any public safety benefits.
With the database going unenforced by the state, some sellers believed they could ship ammunition to New Yorkers, King said.
“I have not heard of one crime involving someone purchasing ammo from out of the state and having it shipped to their homes,” he said.
The penalty for the illicit sale of ammunition is a fine of up to $5,000 for each individual violation. The state could also seek to recover all income resulting from the illegal sales, according to the attorney general’s office.
The sellers found to have violated the law were directed to preserve all records relating to the sales, state officials said.
Sellers of ammunition are required by law to maintain a record of every transaction in New York, with the age, occupation and residence of the person buying the product included in the data entries.
When the SAFE Act was passed just weeks after the massacre of 26 people at a school in Connecticut, Cuomo trumpeted the fact it was the first legislation since the killings to expand gun control.
Two years later, the Cuomo administration cut a deal with Senate Republicans to block the ammunition database requirement. The agreement was signed by then Senate President John Flanagan and James Malatras, then director of operations for the Cuomo administration.
Critics of the ammunition background checks argued it relied upon unproven technology and that creating the database would have cost taxpayers up to $100 million.
Meanwhile, the state’s move to create new restrictions and requirements for pistol permit holders is snarled in ongoing lawsuits.
U.S. District Judge Glenn Suddaby ruled the new law is flawed by “unprecedented constitutional violations.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul and James have not yet signaled whether the state will appeal.