The lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the state’s SAFE Act was in Buffalo on Monday collecting signatures from some of the more than 1,250 other plaintiffs in the case to appeal an Albany judge’s dismissal of their suit against the 2013 gun law to the state’s highest court.
Robert L. Schulz, of Lake George, said he was confident the plaintiffs from 58 counties across the state would succeed in their appeal to the Court of Appeals to overturn the April 16 ruling by State Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara. If not, he said, they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, on grounds the law violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The law bans the sale of high-capacity magazines and many semiautomatic firearms, and requires those who already own such weapons to register them with authorities.
Schulz spoke outside the Erie County Courthouse, where he was collecting signatures from the 36 plaintiffs from Erie County, along with those of the 28 plaintiffs from the seven other Western New York counties.
He said the State Constitution allows a direct appeal to the state’s highest court when the only issue involved is the constitutionality of a statute.
But the Court of Appeals requires that all the plaintiffs in such cases personally sign the notice of appeal.
As a result, Schulz has been traveling around the state since May 1 collecting plaintiffs’ signatures. Buffalo was one of 22 stops planned during the tour, which started Thursday and continues through Wednesday.
Once the signatures are submitted, the Court of Appeals in Albany will set up a hearing schedule for the appeal to be heard..
Schulz’s appearance here did not draw a large crowd, just him and Ken Scholz, of East Amherst, who is the Erie County coordinator for collecting signatures from plaintiffs here. They were joined by plaintiffs from Erie County and other counties arriving to sign the notice of appeal, which must be submitted by May 24.
The plaintiffs contend that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo inappropriately fast-tracked passage of the legislation in issuing a “message of necessity” to allow lawmakers to waive the usual three-day waiting period for the consideration of bills. At the time, Cuomo said the measure needed immediate consideration to protect the public.
Schulz said Cuomo’s excuse was a “sham,” but the Albany judge ruled that Cuomo’s request was within the law.
Schulz also argued that the SAFE Act violates state and federal constitutional protections on gun rights.
But the judge noted in his ruling that those protections are “not absolute and may be limited by reasonable government restrictions.”
“The right is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,” he wrote.
In a separate federal lawsuit, the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association joined gun owners and other gun-rights groups in challenging the state’s law in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.
But Chief U.S. Judge William M. Skretny earlier this year upheld most of the law; the decision is under appeal.