Police in New York have enforced a controversial new law and arrested a man for having too many bullets in his gun.
Lockport police arrested Paul A. Wojdan, 26, during a traffic stop for violating the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which limits how many bullets may be loaded into a standard ammunition magazine, The Buffalo News reported.
Wodjan was a passenger in a car that Officer Adam Piedmont pulled over around midnight. The driver led the officer on a brief chase before being stopped again. The officer asked if there were any weapons in the car, and Wodjan handed over his holstered semiautomatic handgun from the glove compartment. Wodjan had a permit for the gun, but the 10 rounds of ammunition in the magazine got him in trouble.
Under a much-criticized law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York makes it a crime to knowingly carry more than seven rounds in a magazine, with exemptions only for sanctioned shooting competitions and active-duty police officers.
Paul Wodjan was charged with unlawful possession of an ammunition-feeding device and posted bail of $250. The car’s driver, Tanisha D. White, was booked for speeding, being an unlicensed driver and failure to stop for an emergency vehicle.
Lockport Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert told the Buffalo News that Wodjan’s arrest is the first that city police have made enforcing the new law. He acknowledged the severity of complaints on social media but said his department must enforce the law, The Buffalo News said.
“It’s on the books, and if we see it, we have to do something about it,” he said.
A field guide for New York state troopers regarding the law says they must have probable cause of criminal activity to inspect an ammunition magazine: “If an officer has probable cause to believe that a particular magazine is unlawful, he or she may seize and inspect it. If there is founded suspicion of criminal activity, the officer may ask for consent to check the magazine. However, the mere existence of a magazine, which may or may not be legal, does not provide probable cause to believe that any law is being broken.”
The manual says if the person with the gun shows a permit and there are no indications of illegal conduct, the trooper should simply secure the weapon until the end of the stop and then return it to the owner.
Lawrence Eggert told the newspaper police are looking at the new law on a case-by-case basis.
“We certainly are not going to just stop a car and ask for a permit so we can check the number of bullets in the magazine,” he said. “We usually run these by the DA’s office, but in this particular case, the officer didn’t have that luxury. He had to make a decision on the fly – and it’s the law, and there’s nothing wrong with that decision.”
Gun rights groups have said the limit of seven rounds in the SAFE Act lacks common sense.
“The cartridge limit is arbitrary and serves no useful purpose other than to frustrate and perhaps entrap law abiding citizens who own firearms with standard capacity magazines that were designed to hold more than seven rounds,” said Second Amendment Foundation founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb. “… Magazines that hold ten or more rounds are in common use all over the country,” Gottlieb said. “This arbitrary limit essentially penalizes law abiding citizens for exercising their right of self-defense, and that cannot be allowed to stand.”