By Daniel Wiessner
ALBANY, N.Y. (Reuters) - For the second time this
week, a judge has ordered New York state to appear in court to
defend the constitutionality of its controversial new gun
Acting State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Connolly on Friday
said the state had until March 11 to rebut claims that the
method used to enact the law, known as the SAFE Act, violated
Article III of the state constitution.
The order came in a suit filed Thursday by the group We the
People, on behalf of more than 1,200 gun owners.
While Reuters could not immediately obtain the order, it was
confirmed by a court clerk.
The SAFE Act bans assault weapons and magazines that hold
more than seven rounds of ammunition, requires gun owners to
register most guns with the state and requires universal
background checks, among other provisions.
The measure, which was enacted in the wake of the Dec. 14
mass school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, was introduced on
Jan. 15 and passed the legislature within hours.
Friday's order comes amid fierce criticism of the law by
pro-gun groups and many gun owners.
We the People claimed that Governor Andrew Cuomo and state
lawmakers misused a "message of necessity" to pass the law
quickly, according to a press release issued by the plaintiffs.
Messages of necessity allow the legislature to bypass a
constitutional provision that bars bills from being voted on
less than three days after their introduction.
"There was no legitimate need for speed," Robert Schulz, the
lead plaintiff in the case and the group's founder, said in the
The message of necessity, which was penned by Cuomo's office
and accompanied the bill, said "some weapons are so dangerous,
and some ammunition devices so lethal, that New York State must
act without delay to prohibit their continued sale and
Cuomo's office did not immediately return a request for
Friday's order comes two days after State Supreme Justice
Deborah Chimes in Chautauqua County ordered the state to appear
on April 29 to defend against a suit targeting the law's ban on
In that case, Edward Holtz, the owner of an upstate gun
shop, claimed the ban has put him out of business and saddled
him with merchandise he can't sell, according to his lawyer,
Chimes said in her order, which was confirmed by a court
clerk, that if the state cannot prove the constitutionality of
the ban, she will temporarily enjoin it.
Meanwhile, a separate suit brought on behalf of two Erie
County gun owners seeking to overturn several provisions of the
law, including the registration requirements, is pending in Erie
In January, the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association
filed a notice of claim with the state, which gives the group 90
days to file a suit challenging the gun law. The association,
which is the National Rifle Association's affiliate in New York,
said in its filing that the law violates the Second and Fifth
Amendments, the Commerce Clause and constitutional rights to
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