The owner of the Albion Gun Shop said Wednesday that he has found himself in the center of a controversy after a modified assault rifle he had sold – believing the modifications to be correct – were found to be incorrect, labeling him, his shop and customers who bought the weapon in violation of the New York SAFE Act.
Joseph Palumbo said reports that he had been arrested, his inventory seized or his shop closed were false.
Palumbo, who has owned the shop on Hamilton Street for the past two years, said that when the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013 went into effect, he made what he believed to be proper modifications on the AR-15, an assault rifle, by adding a “bullet button modification.”
“We were (originally) told that the modifications on our AR-15 were legal and compliant. We had called the New York State gun laws hotline. We had police departments, local, county and state police from two different barracks, sheriffs from Orleans, Niagara, Erie, Genesee, Monroe, ATF, border patrol, assistant district attorneys. Nobody said get them off my shelf,” he said. “And now they are saying that they are illegal.”
He said the AR-15 is considered an assault rifle because it is semi-automatic with a detachable magazine and has military-style features. He said he was told by the gun hotline and several attorneys that by putting the bullet button setup in, it would be legal. He said the bullet button requires a tool to remove and his shop has been selling it that way for more than a year.
Palumbo said he now must add an epoxy to fill the hole any tool would go in.
“New York has left everything so vague that it is open to interpretation,” the shop owner said. He said he is contacting his customers to inform them of the necessary modification.
In a statement Wednesday, State Police confirmed that a “gun store owner was selling modified assault weapons he believed to be compliant with the SAFE Act, when in fact they were in violation of the law. The State Police in cooperation with the Orleans County District Attorney’s Office will work with the gun store and its customers come into compliance with the law, as it appears the noncompliance was unintentional.”
But Palumbo and his attorney, James Tresmond of Buffalo, said what was alarming is that a State Police officer from the narcotics unit, who has been tasked with enforcing the SAFE Act, came to the business last week and threatened to come in with an armed SWAT team if Palumbo didn’t turn over all his records. Palumbo said the officer was a customer and said he wanted to give him a warning before they kicked in the doors.
“They gave us 24 hours to hand stuff over or they would go to Plan B (an armed SWAT team),” said Palumbo, who contacted an attorney and handed over his records.
“The SAFE Act is very, very vague and doesn’t spell out what a compliant AR would look like, and everybody is interpreting to suit themselves,” Tresmond said. “It’s just awful. We are almost making criminals out of law-abiding, taxpaying, good, fine citizens who bought this gun without any criminal intent in mind, and all of a sudden they are at risk. It just doesn’t make sense.”