After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting shocked the country last December, the height of the gun control argument finally came to a head.
A month after 26 were slain, 20 of whom were first graders, Governor Andrew Cuomo passed the most comprehensive gun law in the nation.
Instilled on January 15, the Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 (NY SAFE ACT) bans high capacity magazines and assault rifles in addition to making it tougher for mentally ill patients to obtain access to guns.
The bill also calls for universal background checks and tougher penalties for illegal gun use.
According to the governor’s website, the act is being implemented “to give New York State the most comprehensive gun laws in the nation, which will keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous mental health patients and ban high capacity magazines and assault weapons. This bill does not affect rifles and shotguns used by traditional sportsmen and hunters.”
In the wake of this new legislation, more than 100 firearms dealers including Olympic Arms, LaRue Tactical and EFI, all manufacturers of AR-15 platforms, have announced that they will not sell guns to law enforcement agencies, employees, or other representatives in New York State, based on the belief that if citizens cannot own these weapons, the police should not either.
“We as a company agree with it completely,” Tom Spithaler, Olympic Arms Sales Director, said. “Our understanding of the constitution is that the right to own a firearm is an individual right that doesn’t belong to the state.”
EFI’s website expresses the same idea, stating: “If a product that we manufacture is not legal for a private citizen to own in a jurisdiction, we will not sell that product to a law-enforcement agency in that jurisdiction.”
“Simply put, New York State doesn’t have right to ban the weapons,” Spithaler said. “Their reasoning is they want to ban them because they’re not safe to have on the street, and we’re helping them do just that.”
SBU Police Chief Robert Lenahan says his department has experienced minimal impact from the boycott since all firearms carried by officers while on duty are owned by the department, and any new officers joining the department are issued firearms already possessed by the department.
“I would not anticipate this proposed boycott to be long in duration and reiterate that I see the whole premise as having minimal impact,” Lenahan said. “I have not experienced this type of reaction from gun manufacturers before.”
However other police departments, especially in New York City, are feeling the repercussions. None would go on the record for comment out of fear of job security.
According to Spithaler, the majority of law enforcement agencies in New York State are not anti-gun. “Law enforcement agencies are fighting against it. Individual officers are now rising up and going against it too.”
But when it comes to keeping the public safe, companies involved in the boycott are not concerned. “It’s not going to jeopardize civilian safety,” Spithaler said. “There will always be other companies who are willing to sell.”