The county attorney has found that a proposed local law requiring gun shops to register sales of ammunition is constitutional and is not pre-empted by state statute.
Gun advocates have rallied against proposed Local Law A since it was introduced at a March 9 meeting of the Albany County Legislature. The measure was sent to the legislature's Law Committee for review, and Committee Chairman Bryan Clenahan asked County Attorney Craig Denning for a ruling on its constitutionality.
The law would require certain record-keeping by the shop owner. It would regulate the storage, possession and sale of ammunition and require dealers to record each ammo sale and the caliber, make and model of the firearm for which the ammo purchase was made. Initially, the law had required the serial number of the firearm, but Legislator Phil Steck, a Colonie Democrat and one of the sponsors, removed that requirement from the legislation.
The measure is still before the Law Committee and a public hearing is set for 7:15 p.m. May 26 at the County Legislature Chamber in the Albany County Courthouse.
"This is not about an individual's right to keep and bear arms," Denning wrote in his three-page opinion. "State and federal control over licensing of firearms is based on precedent, and there are significant determinations holding that local restrictions on possession and use of firearms are appropriate under the Second Amendment. That debate is not the concern here. This is about the obligations of gun dealers and owners to follow local regulation of ammunition sales."
Denning found that "the identification and record-keeping requirements for ammunition sales required under (the proposed county law) are not addressed at the state level." He said "state law has not pre-empted the field of ammunition regulation" and the local law "is an acceptable supplement to existing state enactments and is reasonably related to ensuring public safety."
Steck said Tuesday that Denning agreed with him on two issues — "It does not violate the Second Amendment, and it's not pre-empted by state law."
The proposed measure, he said, is an attempt at legislators "trying to close the loophole in the law as to how ammunition is purchased. We are trying to make certain that a section of the state Penal Law that regulates the sale of ammunition is complied with."
Steck, who is sponsoring the bill with Albany Democrats Wanda Willingham and Doug Bullock, called it "an enforcement issue. Currently, the law says that dealers must not sell to people unless they have a license to buy. The only difference here is we are trying to make sure people actually display their permit if they want to buy handgun ammunition. With respect to other ammunition, they just have to show ID and state they are not buying it for a handgun."
Colonie Republican Patty Lockart opposes the local measure and said she disagrees with Denning's opinion.
"I'm looking forward to the public coming out on May 26 and hearing from them," Lockart said. "New York has the toughest gun laws in the country and as far as ammunition, I do think the state law regulates that. City crime, that's not going to be alleviated by this."
One of her constituents in the village of Colonie is B&J Guns on Central Avenue, the only gun shop in the county, which Lockart said will be affected by the law.