The battle to preserve Second Amendment rights – and restore those already taken away by many state and local authorities – returned to Capitol Hill, recently, with the introduction of the Second Amendment Guarantee Act (SAGA). Were it to become federal law; SAGA would strip states of the ability to pass restrictions on firearms and ammunition that are more stringent than federal regulations. Additionally – and more contentiously – the Act would nullify any such state laws already in place – and it applies not only to state legislatures but also to political subdivisions within the states.
The SAGA Act is largely a response to New York’s SAFE Act, signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo at the beginning of 2013. The SAFE Act (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act) is the boldest infringement of Second Amendment rights anywhere in the nation. It imposed a ban on the sale of ‘assault weapons’ and required those already in possession of such weapons to register them with the police. A wide variety of firearms were classified as ‘assault weapons’ under the SAFE Act, most of which were not actual assault weapons but incorporated certain design and/or functionality features which put them within the technical definition.
Additionally, the SAFE Act banned the sale and use of magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition and made it illegal to load a magazine with more than seven rounds in any location other than a shooting range. These restrictions go beyond any federal firearms regulations, and the SAGA Act represents an effort to reign in those state and local jurisdictions who have, for years, overstepped their constitutional authority. Not surprisingly, the SAGA Act was introduced by a New York Republican, Chris Collins, who represents the state’s 27th Congressional District.
Collins, with the backing of New York gun-rights advocates, makes a case for SAGA on his website.
This legislation would protect the Second Amendment rights of New Yorkers that were unjustly taken away by Andrew Cuomo. I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and have fought against all efforts to condemn these rights. I stand with the law-abiding citizens of this state that have been outraged by the SAFE Act and voice my commitment to roll back these regulations.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has already challenged the proposed legislation. “If they [Congress] try to overrule the state of New York, we will sue because this state has rights, too.” He said, according to a report in The Blaze. Sarah Minkel, a spokeswoman for Rep. Collins, responded to Cuomo’s threat:
“Governor Cuomo took away the constitutional rights of Americans when he signed the so-called SAFE Act into law,” she said, “If Governor Cuomo wants to criticize Congressman Collins for sticking up for his constituents by protecting their Second Amendment rights, or for working to reduce their property taxes, he can answer to them in 2018.”
Collins’ bill raises the complicated issue of states’ rights. If ever it is appropriate for the federal government to restrict or overrule the authority of state and local administrations, it is when constitutional rights are in danger. The SAGA Act would place the Second Amendment under the protection of federal authority, which is a good thing for as long as Congress and the executive branch is in the hands of those who respect it. Opponents of SAGA will, no doubt, attempt to use procedural rules to prevent it ever coming up for a vote, since most Democrats in Congress, along with moderate Republicans, are reluctant to be put in the position of having to vote against a bill that protects gun-rights. Successful passage of the bill would create a golden opportunity for those who advocate for constitutional carry.
When it becomes necessary to pass federal laws that protect freedoms already guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, we must consider, seriously, whether those freedoms are genuinely treasured by our political leader.