Under the threat of a possible SWAT team raid, a gun shop owner in Albion, New York, turned over sales records to the state police last Friday.
Joseph Palumbo, co-owner of the Albion Gun Shop, received a request Thursday from the Narcotics Enforcement Unit, the division of the New York State Police responsible for enforcing the SAFE Act, demanding that he turn over the names of every individual who purchased from his store an AR-15 with a ‘bullet button,’ a modifying device that affixes a magazine to a rifle so that it cannot be detached without the use of a tool.
Palumbo thought this was an odd request given that he had previously sought clarification from both local and state law enforcement on whether the modified firearms were legal under the SAFE Act, the sweeping gun-control law enacted in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, which expanded the ban on so-called ‘assault weapons’ to include all semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines and one or more cosmetic traits, e.g. pistol grip, folding stock, threaded barrel or bayonet mount, among others.
“The New York State Police told me that my guns were NY S.A.F.E. compliant,” Palumbo told Ammoland. “The chief of the Medina police told me my rifles were NY S.A.F.E. compliant and in fact purchased one of the guns from my shop.”
In the request issued on Thursday, the Narcotics Enforcement Unit gave Palumbo 24 hours to turn over the records. Left with little or no choice, Palumbo complied, giving state police the names and addresses of at least 170 customers.
Palumbo told the Niagara Falls Reporter that “there had been a plan to raid the gun shop with the SWAT Team, but the lead investigator felt it would be best to go in peacefully.”
Meanwhile, an attorney representing the gun shop owner believes that his client may have been set up.
“My client disclosed to me that he would not have sold these rifles to the general public had they not been approved by the New York Division of State Police,” said James D. Tresmond.
To that end, Ammoland reported that an informant within the state police released an email from New York State Police Division Counsel Kevin Bruen replying to a trooper’s inquiry about whether the rifles were legal to possess, to which Division Counsel said, “a court would have to rule on the legality of these rifles.”
In other words, Division Councel had no idea whether the AR-15s with the bullet buttons were lawful under the SAFE Act. To answer that question the state would either need to wait for a lawsuit to present itself or bring charges against an individual selling and/or possessing those rifles so that a court could render a decision.
It goes without saying but if a law is that ambiguous it needs to be scrapped, as Palumbo’s attorney pointed out.
“The New York S.A.F.E. Act is being enforced arbitrarily on a case by case basis,” Tresmond said. “That amounts to unconstitutional vagueness under the Supreme Court’s Morales standard, and the law should be enjoined for that reason alone.”