ALBANY - It becomes illegal starting today in New York to buy ammunition unless a licensed dealer actually sees you.
The requirement for face-to-face bullet sales is part of the law pushed through a year ago by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, one month after the massacre of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Conn.
The law has taken effect incrementally since, banning sales of some popular semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines, requiring federal background checks on private gun sales and imposing felony penalties for illegal gun possession. It has also drawn crowds of protesters to the Capitol and lawsuits saying it infringes on Second Amendment rights.
For ammunition, transactions are required to take place in person. That includes Internet sales, requiring the face-to-face involvement of the buyer and a New York-licensed seller. A federal judge upheld that provision in a ruling two weeks ago that's being appealed.
"Most people come to a gun shop to buy ammo anyway," said Jason Marshall at Target Sports in Glenville, 20 miles northwest of Albany. "Online sales are dead."
Marshall said today's effective date hasn't spawned another big spike in ammunition sales like the law's passage and rumors of federal stockpiling did last year. However, popular .22-caliber ammunition has remained scarce and sells out quickly. The store has stocks of most other rounds, he said.
Organizations like shooting ranges and hunting clubs that distribute ammunition on their premises can register to keep getting direct shipments. According to state police, the law will require retailers to record bullet sales and do background checks on buyers once a state database is operating. It's intended to keep bullets away from convicted felons, the mentally ill and others prohibited under state or federal law from having them.
Judge William Skretny, in upholding most of the law, concluded the face-to-face requirement for ammunition sales doesn't violate the Constitution's Commerce Clause or create a monopoly for New York dealers since out-of-state dealers can also establish brick-and-mortar outlets here.
State Sen. Greg Ball, a Hudson Valley Republican, said Tuesday he knows the law is unconstitutional and he hopes law enforcement wait on enforcing the ammunition provision for a final court decision.
"It really is an asinine portion of the bill," he said, adding that it shows a lack of appreciation for both police and hunters, does nothing to save lives and creates an issue with gun clubs having to register.
State police spokeswoman Darcy Wells said Tuesday that 23 ranges and gun clubs have registered as organizational keepers of ammunition and can get it directly from manufacturers, but many others already had dealer registrations that suffice. The state database is still under construction, and sellers will be notified before it's operational and the reporting requirements are relevant, she said.
Wells declined to discuss the agency's tactics in addressing now illegal Internet sales. State police already have a computer crimes unit.
The federal judge struck down one provision of the law that prohibits loading more than seven bullets into a legal 10-round magazine, saying it's an apparently arbitrary number and it was far likelier than other provisions "of disproportionately affecting law-abiding citizens."
Cuomo said last week that Srketny's ruling is the law for the state until it's changed by another court.