Fresh off of reelection, New York’s top law-enforcement official is going after the gun industry in a new way.
Attorney General Letitia James (D.) announced on Monday accused 39 ammunition sellers of violating New York’s SAFE Act by conducting online sales and shipping directly to residents’ homes. She sent the dealers cease and desist orders promising to use the “full force of my office” in a first-of-its-kind threat to enforce the previously-unenforced section of the law
“Online sales of ammunition are dangerous and could end up in the wrong hands,” James said in a press release. “We are taking action to protect communities and enforce our responsible gun laws.”
The announcement is now the earliest indication that New York’s unexpectedly-close elections this past week will not halt state officials’ attempts to target the firearms industry.
New York’s SAFE Act was signed into law in 2013. The act requires licensed dealers to conduct all ammunition sales in person. It also requires the seller to record buyers’ personal information, including their name, address, date of birth, occupation, and type and quantity of ammunition they bought. The information is then stored in a publicly-accessible database. Violators of the law could be subject to a $5,000 fine per violation.
That provision was suspended in 2015 due to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between then-Governor Andrew Cuomo (D.) and senate Republicans over the state’s failure to implement an ammunition database in a timely fashion. The MOU delayed plans to implement a background check for ammunition sales and allowed such sales to be conducted online.
Governor Kathy Hochul (D.) rescinded that MOU earlier this summer while signing a bundle of new gun control laws in response to the Buffalo supermarket shooting.
“We went back and looked at our laws, because I had a lot of questions about ammunition,” Hochul said at the time. “And in our review, we determined that there’s actually an old MOU that was signed related to ammunition sales after laws were passed a decade ago, it was an administration document between the prior administration and the Senate Republicans. So we are literally tearing it up, and New York will now require and conduct background checks for all ammunition purchases.”
James’s office did not specifically name the dealers she targeted. A copy of the cease and desist letters she sent was redacted to hide the identity of the recipient. The press release indicated that only two of the sellers were based in New York.
James has had a fractious relationship with the firearms industry and gun-rights movement both prior to and during her tenure as New York’s Attorney General. On the campaign trail en route to her first election in 2018, she referred to the NRA as a “terrorist organization.” She has since spearheaded the attempt to dissolve the organization over corruption allegations before a New York judge ruled out that possibility. Her attempt to sanction the NRA and reorganize its leadership is ongoing.
She has also suggested copying the tactics of Texas’s controversial abortion law in order to circumvent gun industry liability protections and has even gone so far as to call for federal crackdowns on toy guns in New York.
James also defended New York’s subjective may-issue standard before it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. She has also publicly supported the state’s replacement law, which is currently mired in its own legal battle.